Ons Jabeur has added her name to the Mutua Madrid Open winners’ circle for the first time. The Tunisian became the ninth woman to do so after beating Jessica Pegula in three sets (7-5, 0-6, 6-2) after one hour and 54 minutes of play in the Manolo Santana Stadium.
For the third consecutive edition, the Caja Mágica has crowned a new champion after Kiki Bertens in 2019 and Aryna Sabalenka last season. The new No.7 in the world claimed her first WTA 1000 title in the Spanish capital and the second title of her career after her WTA 250 in Birmingham (2021).
Jabeur struck first in the biggest final in the careers of both players. Pegula started by saving four break points and even broke her opponent in the fourth game (3-1), but the North African player broke back in the seventh game and, after fending off a set point in the tenth, she claimed the set by stringing three games together after 54 minutes.
The outlook changed drastically in the second set with an unforgiving reaction from the North American. Pegula forced the match into a decider with a set to love, breaking in the second, fourth and sixth games; the set had barely started before it was over.
Jabeur recovered from the blow and came out meaning business in the decider. The set was replete with service breaks, with the Tunisian’s coming in the first, third and seventh set. For her part, Pegula broke back in the second, but was unable to prevent the eighth seed from sealing the title.
First Arab woman to win a WTA 1000 title.
— #MMOPEN (@MutuaMadridOpen) May 7, 2022
The 27-year-old’s route to the throne started with a win over Italy’s Jasmine Paolini (7-6, 6-1), in the first round. She followed it up with victory over qualifier Varvara Gracheva (7-5, 0-6, 6-4), in the second, then sent Swiss player Belinda Bencic packing (6-2, 3-6, 6-2) in the last sixteen. Jabeur upset Simona Halep (6-3, 6-2) in the quarters and sealed her passage to the final against another qualifier, Ekaterina Alexandrova (6-2, 6-3).
After its twentieth anniversary, Czech player Petra Kvitova (2011, 2015 & 2018) has more #MMOPEN titles than any other player, followed by Serena Williams and Simona Halep. The American won two titles on the trot (2012-13), as did the Romanian (2016-17). Jabeur joins a list of players that was started by Dinara Safina (2009) and also includes French player Aravane Rezai (2010), Maria Sharapova (2015) and the above-mentioned Bertens and Sabalenka.
Pioneer in her country
With the win, Jabeur becomes the first Tunisian to win a WTA 1000 tournament. “This title means so much to my country and the region of Africa. I hope to inspire many more people and my dream is for there to be many more Tunisian players on tour”, she explained.
Asked about the final, the new world No. 7 praised Pegula’s performance. “It’s never easy playing against someone like her. I’d lost finals in the past and this is incredible. I’m so excited. Thank you Madrid for the support and the people from my country that have come to support me“.
Jabeur explained that there will be minimal celebrations of the biggest win of her career. “My family is here and I’ll celebrate with them. Now, it’s time to go to Rome and I don’t know if I’ll have much time for parties. We’ll try to celebrate it with a big dinner”, she ended, laughing.