US Open: 'It's just the beginning' – Jabeur hopes to be an inspiration after falling just short in New York

By Sports Desk September 10, 2022

US Open runner-up Ons Jabeur hopes her historic run to the final at Flushing Meadows can help inspire future generations of players from African and Arab nations.

Tunisian Jabeur went down 6-2 7-6 (7-5) to world number one Iga Swiatek in Saturday's thrilling final at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The 28-year-old was the first African female player to reach the singles final at the US Open in the Open Era, having earlier this year become the first such player to reach the showpiece match of a grand slam in the Open Era.

Jabeur lost 3-6 6-2 6-2 to Elena Rybakina at Wimbledon, though despite not winning a set against Swiatek, gave a better account of herself this time around.

It has been some rise for Jabeur, who had previously never reached a semi-final in 20 previous major appearances. She will be the world number two when the new WTA rankings are confirmed on Monday.

An African player has not won a grand slam singles title since 1981, when Johan Kriek triumphed at the Australian Open. He retained his title a year later, yet was competing for the United States.

Indeed, a player from the continent, male or female, has not enjoyed success at any major since Cara Black won in the mixed doubles at Wimbledon in 2010, but Jabeur is hoping that will soon change.

"I want to thank the crowd for cheering me on, I really tried, she deserved to win today – I don't like her very much right now, but it's okay," Jabeur smiled as she hailed Swiatek's performance in her on-court interview.

"An amazing two weeks to be honest, making up for my final at Wimbledon. I'm going to keep working hard and we'll get that title sometime soon."

Asked how proud she was of her history making season, Jabeur replied: "It really means a lot and I try to push myself to do more. Getting the major is one of the goals.

"Hopefully I can inspire more and more generations, that's the goal and I get inspired by so many champions. Thank you also to my team, always pushing me.

"We want more and more kids coming here hopefully, I just really hope I can inspire more. This is just the beginning."

Jabeur is the first player to reach the final at both Wimbledon and the US Open in the same season since the great Serena Williams did so in 2019, and only the seventh player overall since the turn of the century.

After struggling to find rhythm in the first set, the fifth seed hit back in the second, coming from 4-2 down to restore parity and subsequently save the first of Swiatek's championship points en route to forcing a tie-break.

Jabeur found herself serving for the set at 5-4 up, yet a wonderful Swiatek forehand and a sloppy shot into the net handed her opponent a second bite at the cherry.

The Pole took it thanks to an overhit Jabeur forehand, meaning the Tunisian has now lost seven of her 10 Tour-level finals, and all three of the showpiece matches she has played in on hard courts.

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    Andy Murray has set his eyes on the Lexus Surbiton Trophy final after he beat Australian Jason Kubler to advance into the last four.

    Murray fought back from a set down to beat Kubler 3-6 6-3 6-4 and showed signs of his best as the two-time Wimbledon champion progressed into the competition’s penultimate day for the second straight year.

    The second seed, who fell at the semi-final stage in 2022, credited his opponent after their two-hour battle which furthered Murray’s hopes of earning a seed for next month’s Wimbledon championships.


    The 36-year-old said: “I knew it was going to be hard. He (Kubler) played well and has a lot of variety in his game and was one of the best juniors in the world but has had some problems with injuries.

     

    “He has beaten some good players, he likes to play on this surface so I was not expecting an easy one. Having to come back from a set down against a player as good as him on these sorts of courts is a positive.

    “I did fine, it was very windy and gusty a lot so tough to feel great when it is like that, but I did well in the important moments.

    “Most of the tournaments you play on tour are in purpose-built facilities whereas coming here, you all love tennis and are probably members, so it’s always nice to play at clubs like this.

    “It has been a good run so far and hopefully I can go a bit further than last year.”

    Murray will face the defending champion Jordan Thompson in Saturday’s semi-final.

    But before then he needs to decide where he will play next week, with his options being the Rothesay Open in Nottingham or the Stuttgart Open.

    The Briton enjoyed last year’s event in Germany, where he beat top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and eventual Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios before losing to Italian Matteo Berrettini in the final.

    He added: “I need to make a decision whether I will go to Nottingham or Stuttgart. There’s pros and cons to both, they’re both good decisions.

    “There are higher rewards in Stuttgart and Nottingham there’s less travel and the courts are probably a little more similar to Queen’s and Wimbledon.

    “I feel like I should be playing at the highest level that I can and competing on the tour is ultimately what I want to do.

    “I liked the tournament in Stuttgart last year – I played really well there so I wish I could make a decision after the next couple of days, but it has to be tonight.”

  • Carlos Alcaraz admits tension got to him in semi-final defeat to Novak Djokovic Carlos Alcaraz admits tension got to him in semi-final defeat to Novak Djokovic

    Carlos Alcaraz admitted tension got the better of him after he was hobbled by cramp in his hotly-anticipated French Open semi-final against Novak Djokovic.

    The 20-year-old had just won an electrifying second set to level the contest and looked like he might be grabbing the ascendancy when, after hitting a return in the second game of the third, his whole body seized up.

    Alcaraz managed to carry on but won only one more game as Djokovic triumphed 6-3 5-7 6-1 6-1 to reach a 34th grand slam final.

    The Spaniard did look a lot more anxious than usual at the start of the biggest match in men’s tennis for a year and, asked what had caused the cramp, he said: “The tension of the match.

    “I started the match really nervous. The tension of the first set, the second set, it was a really intense two sets, as well. I have never felt something like I did today. I have never felt that tension that I did in that match.

    “I disappointed myself, and in a match like this, coming to this match with great feeling, feeling great physically, and cramping at the end of the second set, beginning of the third set. It was really disappointing.”

    This was only the second time Djokovic and Alcaraz had played each other and the first at a slam, with the young Spaniard having prevailed in Madrid last year.

    The 16-year age gap was the biggest in any Roland Garros semi-final in the open era and it seemed a pivotal match in the generational battle going on in men’s tennis as well as for Djokovic’s hopes of pulling away from his rivals at the top of the all-time lists.

    “It’s not easy to play against Novak,” said Alcaraz, who won a series of long matches to claim his first grand slam title at the US Open last year, where Djokovic was absent because of his vaccination status.

    “If someone says that he gets into the court with no nerves playing against Novak, he lies.

    “Of course, playing a semi-final of a grand slam, you have a lot of nerves, but even more with facing Novak. Next time that I’m going to face Novak, I hope to be different, but the nerves will be there.”

    Djokovic was the better player in the first set but the second was a tremendous contest, with Alcaraz showcasing his spectacular brand of tennis, not least a stunning winner in the third game when he chased back towards his own baseline and somehow flicked the ball inside the sideline on the turn.

    Djokovic was the first to call the trainer for treatment to his right forearm and Alcaraz broke for 5-3 before holding three set points two games later, but each time his opponent fought back.

    Alcaraz did finally take his fourth set point on Djokovic’s serve at 5-6 but several minutes later the match was effectively over.

    The Spaniard had to forfeit a game to have treatment, drawing loud and prolonged boos from the crowd when they realised what had happened, but that was the least of his worries.

    He could barely move during the rest of the third set and, although he rallied at the beginning of the fourth, it was nowhere near enough to turn it back into a contest.

    “I started to cramp in my arm,” explained Alcaraz. “At the beginning of the third set I started to cramp in every part of my body, not only the legs.”

    Asked if he considered not finishing the match, the 20-year-old said: “I would have felt sorry about myself if I would retire. I’m in a semi-final of a grand slam. I thought that probably I have one per cent chance to come back.”

    Djokovic, who has not lost a slam match for more than a year, will now be an overwhelming favourite to become the first man to win 23 grand slam singles titles in the final on Sunday.

    He had sympathy for his opponent, saying: “First and foremost I have to say tough luck for Carlos. At this level, the last thing you want is cramps. I feel for him, I feel sorry and hope he can recover and come back very soon.

    “I told him at the net, he knows how young he is. He’s going to win this tournament I’m sure many, many times. He’s an unbelievable player.

    “It’s tough obviously for him to not know whether he should finish the match but congratulations to him for the fighting spirit.

    “Towards the end of the second set I wasn’t feeling fresh at all. We went toe to toe and then this thing happened. I just tried to stay focused. I saw that he’s struggling but I didn’t want to think too much what’s going on on the other side of the net.

    “I’m incredibly proud to reach another final.”

    Not for the first time this fortnight, Djokovic was booed on several occasions throughout the match, including when he celebrated winning points in the fourth set.

    “I don’t mind,” he said with a wry smile. “It’s not the first (time), probably not the last. I’ll just keep winning.”

  • Andy Murray fights back from set down to reach Surbiton semi-finals Andy Murray fights back from set down to reach Surbiton semi-finals

    Andy Murray fought back from a set down to beat Jason Kubler and reach the semi-finals of the Lexus Surbiton Trophy.

    The 36-year-old, the last remaining British man in the singles, scraped past the Australian 3-6 6-3 6-4 as he continued his preparations for Wimbledon next month .

    Murray, who is ranked 43 in the world and needs to climb 11 spots in order to be seeded at his home grand slam, will now face another Australian, Jordan Thompson, for a place in Sunday’s final.

    Both Murray and Kubler battled at a high intensity despite the heat and the 30-year-old’s fast serve paid dividends as he took an early 3-2 lead which left the three-time slam winner frustrated as he failed to find any rhythm.

    Kubler replicated Wednesday’s first set dominance over Britain’s Ryan Peniston as Murray struggled to deal with his opponent’s shot selection and the Scot was made to scramble across the turf before losing the opening set 6-3.

    The former world number one appeared rejuvenated by the home support, though, and it finally felt like he was beginning to find his feet after taking a 2-1 lead in the second set, only to be pegged back to 2-2.

    Kubler voiced his satisfaction through a loud “come on” as the game approached the hour mark with the second set now locked at 3-3.

    Murray responded with a frustrated groan as the world number 69 began to ramp up the pressure with powerful serves and verbal celebrations.

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    Miyazaki advanced to the semi-finals where she will face compatriot Katie Swan, who batted back to beat Germany’s Tatjana Maria 3-6 6-3 6-4.

    It is the first time that three British women have reached the last four in the tournament’s history.

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