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TENNIS

Jabeur vows to come back swinging after US Open defeat

Jabeur vows to come back swinging after US Open defeat
Ons Jabeur of Tunisia reacts during the trophy ceremony after losing to Iga Swiatek of Poland during the women's final match at the US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, US, 10 September 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / JUSTIN LANE)

Ons Jabeur struggled to hold back the tears after losing a second consecutive Grand Slam final on Saturday, but while the Tunisian said her US Open defeat to Iga Swiatek was tough to take, she vowed to come back swinging. 

The 28-year-old Jabeur, who lost her first Grand Slam title match at Wimbledon in July, was beaten 6-2 7-6(5) by world number one Swiatek at Flushing Meadows.  

She told reporters that not even the sting of defeat on the sport’s biggest stage could keep her down for long. 

“I struggled to win my first WTA title. It took me time. So I believe this will take me time,” said Jabeur, who will regain the world number two ranking after the tournament concludes. 

“The most important thing is accepting it, you know, learning from the finals that I lost.” 

A crowd favourite in New York for her creative play and ebullient personality, she claimed her first Tour-level title last year in Birmingham, England, nine years after first appearing in a WTA main draw. 

She went on a tear this year, winning in Madrid and Berlin, before Elena Rybakina came back from a set down to end her title hopes at Wimbledon. 

Jabeur’s march through the Flushing Meadows draw saw her swat aside a red-hot Caroline Garcia in the semi-finals but a rocky start against Swiatek proved too much for Tunisia’s “Minister of Happiness”. 

“Wimbledon was tough. This one is going to be tough,” Jabeur said. 

“I’m not someone that’s going to give up. I am sure I’m going to be in the final again.” 

The first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam final, and first African woman to reach the US Open championship match, Jabeur said her message to the next generation of girls hoping to follow her path was: “Never give up.” 

“That’s what I was trying to do all my career. I had some ups and downs. Before, it was injuries and getting to know myself on the court. After, it was losing the quarterfinals,” she said. 

“Then it evolved to losing finals. Then getting titles.” 

Ons Jabeur of Tunisia poses with the runner-up trophy after losing to Iga Swiatek of Poland during the women’s final match at the US Open Tennis Championships, 10 September 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / RAY ACEVEDO)

Swiatek takes the cake 

Swiatek was able to have her cake and eat it at the US Open after the Pole capped her campaign at a star-studded Flushing Meadows by collecting her third Grand Slam title. 

Swiatek, who has enjoyed her brushes with New York’s celebrity scene during the tournament, claimed  a massive $2.6-million winner’s cheque. 

However, tournament organisers had another reward for her, hiding a piece of tiramisu – one of her favourite treats – inside the trophy. 

“I really appreciate it. Especially since I didn’t have anything to eat,” she said. 

The two weeks of competition could scarcely have been sweeter for the Pole, who balanced her usual on-court seriousness with off-court fun. 

She grabbed a photo with her idol Serena Williams, rubbed shoulders with Olympic gold medallist Lindsey Vonn and swooned at the sight of singer Seal. 

“Actually after I met Seal, I was like, ‘Even if I’m going to lose right now I already won this tournament, because I got photo with him,’” said Swiatek. 

“It’s something that it’s only going to happen probably in New York – yeah, because it’s New York.” 

Swiatek, who has also won two French Open titles, fit right in with the city’s boisterous fans and was greeted on the Flushing Meadows plaza for an ESPN interview with a roaring crowd of her compatriots after becoming the first Polish woman to win the tournament. 

“The energy that they give me, it’s surreal,” she said. 

Ons Jabeur of Tunisia (right) and Iga Swiatek of Poland during the trophy ceremony at the US Open Tennis Championships, 10 September 2022. (Photo: JUSTIN LANE EPA-EFE / RAY ACEVEDO)


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Holding nerve 

Swiatek did well during the match to tune out the crowd, who at times whistled and made other noises while she was serving, earning stern rebukes from the chair umpire. 

The demonstrative Jabeur was able to harness the energy of her fans at times but it was not enough to overcome the focused and determined Swiatek. 

“Ons, such an amazing tournament, such an amazing season,” Swiatek said after improving to 3-2 lifetime against Jabeur. 

“I know that this is already a pretty nice rivalry and we’re going to have many more. I’m pretty sure you’re going to win some of them so don’t worry.” 

Despite the defeat, Wimbledon finalist Jabeur will regain her world number two ranking when the tournament concludes on Sunday.

“I really tried but Iga didn’t make it easy for me,” Jabeur said. 

“She deserved to win today. I don’t like her very much right now but it’s okay,” she added with a smile. 

“I’m going to keep fighting hard and we’ll get that title sometime soon.” – Reuters/DM

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