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Ons Jabeur beats Pegula to win first WTA 1000 title in Madrid, first African player to do so


Tunisian Ons Jabeur sealed her first WTA 1000 title after defeating American Jessica Pegula 7-5 0-6 6-2 in an entertaining Madrid Open final on Saturday.

Jabeur had been in scintillating form at the claycourt tournament and the 27-year-old produced a determined display against Pegula to end her journey in the Spanish capital on the perfect note.

Jabeur had a slow start, being down 1-4 in the opener, but took advantage of a handful of loose baseline errors from Pegula to make it 4-4.

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The first Arab player to crack the top 10 of the world rankings, Jabeur showed flair and fighting spirit as she saved a set point at 4-5 before closing out the set on her serve.

The Tunisian, however, lost her grip in the second set where she was handed a bagel by Pegula, who recovered remarkably and looked unstoppable.

The decider saw world number 10 Jabeur at her aggressive best — the Tunisian fighting through a long deuce game and breaking on her first chance to earn a double-break lead and chance to serve out the win.

Jabeur fell to her knees after completing the biggest win of her career, becoming the first African player to win a WTA 1000 title.

“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.

“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 set for career-high –

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 on Monday.

“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.

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 โ€“- 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.”

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