APRIL 21 - MAY 4, 2025

Jabeur battles past Schmiedlova, with a little help from a special local

Ons Jabeur’s connection with Madrid runs deep.

Not only is the city the site of her greatest triumph so far – she lifted the trophy at the Caja Magica in 2022 – it’s also home to her favourite football team, Real Madrid.

“Obviously I love Madrid so much, my favourite football team is from here so it’s always nice to come back and feel the great energy. This is a city I always tell my husband I would like to live in,” the Tunisian said on court following her 6-4, 5-7, 3-6 victory over Anna Karolina Schmiedlova in the second round on Thursday.

Jabeur’s title run in Madrid two years ago saw her make history as the first Arab or North African woman to win a WTA 1000 crown. She was unable to return to the Spanish capital for her title defence last season due to a calf injury, which means Thursday marked her seventh consecutive victory at the Caja Magica, dating back to 2022.

She joked with defending champion Aryna Sabalenka that they should alternate winning the Madrid title and that this year, it would be Jabeur’s turn to reign supreme again.

“I was joking with Aryna, I was like, she won it in 2021, I won it in 2022, she won it in 2023, and I’m like, it’s time for me in 2024, it’s like back and forth, you know,” said Jabeur.

“I enjoy playing here, especially when I really find my rhythm because I feel like the small altitude here really helps.”

Jabeur has the added benefit of having a Madrileño in her corner this week, in the form of Spanish ex-world No.7 Fernando Verdasco, who is helping her in Madrid in the absence of her full-time coach Issam Jellali.

“I’m trying to get the Spanish mentality on the clay, apparently it’s not that bad to play with that,” said Jabeur.

“We’re close friends and he just had his third baby, so we’re having the energy of a new baby in the team. It’s nice to have him, I’ve always been a fan of him as a player, but also as a person because he has such an amazing energy. He’s helping me this week, so hopefully we can have more matches together.”

On Estadio Arantxa Sanchez on Thursday, Jabeur claimed a see-saw opening set in 45 minutes but the Tunisian dropped serve early in the second as Schmiedlova carved out a 2-0 advantage.

A marathon third game saw Jabeur retaliate and the No.8 seed went on a four-game winning run to inch ahead 4-2. But there was still another twist in the tale of that second frame as Jabeur failed to serve out the match and Schmiedlova managed to force a decider, saving match point along the way.

Jabeur was not rattled though as she notched two breaks of serve in the final set and although she couldn’t close at 5-2, she sealed the deal the following game to complete a two-hour 28-minute victory.

Next up for Jabeur is Canadian lefty Leylah Fernandez, who took out Anastasia Potapova 7-5, 6-3.

Sakkari books Stephens showdown

Earlier in the day, No.5 seed Maria Sakkari played a near flawless match to move past her good friend Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-2 and book a third-round meeting with an in-form Sloane Stephens.

The Greek star improved to 4-6 head-to-head against Vekic, thanks to an aggressive performance that saw her fire 29 winners and commit just 14 unforced errors.

“I think it was one of the best performances I’ve had this year, one of the best matches I’ve played for sure,” Sakkari told mutuamadridopen.com.

“I just felt very good and very clear with my game. It’s always very, very tricky to play Donna, because she’s always going to come out there with a fight and she’s always going to try to make you feel uncomfortable.

“I’m very happy that my game is still there, the way it was from the beginning of Indian Wells and I just feel like there is that consistency still in me.”

Sakkari has indeed shown great consistency over the last three tournaments, making the final in Indian Wells, the quarters in Miami and the semis in Charleston.

A semi-finalist in Madrid last year, Sakkari loves the conditions in the Spanish capital and is a fan of playing in altitude, which explains why her breakthrough WTA 1000 title victory came in Guadalajara last year, some 1,566m above sea level.

“I like the conditions here. I deal well with altitude, it’s something I like, it’s just that you have to buy into the fact that you might miss more, you might make mistakes that don’t really make sense,” explained Sakkari.

“And obviously I have a few tools in my mind, which I’m never going to tell anyone of how I play in altitude. I just feel like it suits my game really well.”