Copy of 2022-05-07T192800Z_820045453_UP1EI571I2NNV_RTRMADP_3_TENNIS-MADRID-1651992298791
Tunisia's Ons Jabeur reacts during the final of the Madrid Open against Jessica Pegula of the US. Image Credit: REUTERS

Madrid: Ons Jabeur says she is hungry for more success after she claimed the biggest title of her career, becoming the first Arab or African player to win a WTA 1000 title thanks to a 7-5, 0-6, 6-2 victory over American Jessica Pegula on Saturday in Madrid.

The Tunisian trailblazer picked up her second WTA trophy and is set to return to her career-high ranking of number seven in the world tomorrow.

Jabeur, who is the first Arab player - man or woman - to crack the top 10, owns a tour-leading 12 victories on clay so far this season and picked up a 20th win overall in 2022.

“I honestly still can’t believe it. I went through a roller coaster of emotions during the past few days, just after the semi-final. I was really stressed trying to breathe,” said Jabeur, who had won just one of her previous five WTA finals.

Break points

“I really didn’t want to get disappointed again. I thought my heart was going out of my chest today. I’m very happy and trying to realise that I won today really.”

Pegula had to save four break points in her opening two service games before she upped the pressure on the Jabeur serve to break for 3-1.

The Tunisian struck back in game seven, finding her range on the return and was soon on level terms with Pegula.

Jabeur faced a set point in an error-strewn 10th game but weathered the storm to hold then broke Pegula to love using a signature drop shot return. The world number 10 closed out the set on the 54-minute mark.

Pegula was in trouble at the start of the second set, but she swatted away three break points and it was her turn to attack as she swept the next six games in under 30 minutes.

The first three games of the decider went against serve until Jabeur finally consolidated a break to inch ahead 3-1. The 27-year-old doubled her advantage and fell to her knees when she wrapped up a milestone victory.

Jabeur improved to 2-4 in WTA finals and to 3-2 head-to-head against Pegula, who will rise to a career-high number 11 in the world.

“I think for both of us, the last two weeks proved a lot. We’ve come a long way from a few years ago, we were ranked 75 and 76, we were right next to each other. So that’s pretty amazing,” Pegula told Jabeur during the trophy ceremony.

Shifted focus

The 28-year-old American has shown great consistency at WTA 1000 tournaments, winning 28 matches at that level since the start of the 2021 season. Only one player has tallied more victories within that span at such events - world number one Iga Swiatek.

Meanwhile, Jabeur has already shifted her focus onto her next tournament in Rome, where she faces Romanian Sorana Cirstea in the opening round on Tuesday.

“Definitely all those matches I’ve won on clay will give me a lot of confidence. I’m just going to try to take as many (ranking) points as I can in Rome. I know I didn’t play last year, so it’s extra points for me,” said Jabeur.

“When you’re confident like that and you win a lot of matches, I think I should take this opportunity to go, like, really forward and win.”