MADRID, Spain, May 8 – Ons Jabeur says she is hungry for more success after winning the biggest title of her career, becoming the first Arab or African player to win a WTA 1000 title with a 7-5, 0-6, 6- win 2 over American Jessica Pegula on Saturday in Madrid.
The Tunisian pioneer has won her second WTA trophy and is expected to regain her career-best ranking of world number seven on Monday.
Jabeur, who is the first Arab player – male or female – to break into the top 10, has 12 wins on clay so far this season and picked up a 20th victory overall in 2022.
“Honestly, I still can’t believe it. I went through a rollercoaster of emotions in the last few days, just after the semi-final. I was really stressed trying to breathe,” said Jabeur, who had won only one of her previous five WTA Finals.
“I really didn’t want to be disappointed again. I thought my heart was dropping out of my chest today. I’m very happy and trying to realize that I really won today.
Pegula had to save four break points in his first two service games before increasing the pressure on Jabeur’s serve to break for 3-1.
The Tunisian fought back in game seven, finding her range on the return and was soon level with Pegula.
Jabeur faced a set point in an error-strewn 10th game but weathered the storm to hold on, then smashed Pegula to love using a signature kick return. The world number 10 closed the set in the 54th minute.
Pegula struggled early in the second set, but she saved three break points and it was her turn to attack as she swept through the next six games in less than 30 minutes.
The decider’s first three games went against serve until Jabeur finally consolidated a break to take a 3-1 lead. The 27-year-old doubled her advantage and fell to her knees as she secured a decisive victory.
– Pegula is ready for the peak of his career –
Jabeur improved to 2-4 in the WTA Finals and 3-2 head-to-head against Pegula, who will reach No. 11 in the world on Monday.
“I think for both of us the last two weeks have been very useful. We’ve come a long way for a few years, we were rated 75 and 76, we were right next to it. So it’s quite incredible,” Pegula told Jabeur during the award ceremony.
The 28-year-old American has shown great consistency at the WTA 1000 tournaments, winning 28 matches at this level since the start of the 2021 season. Only one player has won more during this period at such events – world number one Iga Swiatek.
Meanwhile, Jabeur has already focused on her next tournament in Rome, where she will face Romania’s Sorana Cirstea in the first round on Tuesday.
“Definitely all these matches I won on clay will give me a lot of confidence. I’ll just try to take as many (ranking) points as possible 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 games, I think I should take that opportunity to really push forward and win.”