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Monday, September 25, 2023

Tunisia’s Jabeur wins WTA Charleston rematch over Bencic


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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Ons Jabeur used quick thinking, a bit of creativity and some luck to turn the tide on the way to her Charleston Open championship Sunday.

Jabeur, ranked fifth in the world, saw opponent Belinda Bencic’s shot from the net coming straight at her. So Jabeur jumped with legs apart, put the racket behind her between the opening and sent the ball back at Bencic.

Bencic put her next shot to Jabeur’s left and she responded with a winning backhand at the right sideline to tie the opening set at 5-all on the way to a 7-6 (6), 6-4 victory.

“I reacted very fast,” Jabeur said. “I saw the ball coming at me. So I was like, ‘OK, I’m just going to give her one more ball to play and see.’”

Jabeur pumped her fist as the crowd cheered and she kept the momentum the rest of the way for her third career WTA title.

Jabeur understood the importance of that moment with Bencic a game away from taking the opening set.

“I think I was lucky and creative with that shot, which was amazing and it changed up the game a bit,” she said.

There were plenty of other critical moments for Jabeur, winning four straight points in the first-set tiebreaker when Bencic was a point away from taking charge.

Bencic was amazed with Jabeur’s shot, too.

“To play that on a break point is just, I mean, well done,” Bencic said. “Like what can I do?”

Bencic, the defending champion who defeated Jabeur in three sets to win here a year ago, joked that if the two meet in a grand slam final down the road and Jabeur does it again, “I will kill her.”

Jabeur broke Bencic’s serve three times in the final set. When Bencic hit her service return wide, Jabeur raised her arms in triumph for her first victory in the United States.

“I wish every tournament is like this, really (mean that) from the heart,” Jabeur said in accepting the trophy. “Really amazing tournament and I hope I can come back.”

When she does, it’ll be as defending champion.

Bencic advanced to the second straight final about 30 minutes before it began, finishing off a straight-set victory over No. 1 seed Jessica Pegula by winning the final five points of a tiebreaker.

Jabeur looked like the one who might’ve needed more rest early on. She lost her serve in the opening game of the finals and struggled to figure out Bencic’s serves.

Bencic held two set points in the tiebreaker that Jabeur fought off. Bencic watched a Jabeur’s ball hit the line and threw her racket. Jabeur’s hit another sideline on set point that Bencic thought was out, but the chair umpire ruled in it as Bencic pleaded her case to no avail.

“I wish at 6-4 in the tiebreak one of her balls would just go a little bit wide or a little bit long, but sometimes this is tennis,” Bencic said. “I felt today was meant to be her way.”

Jabeur took a 4-1 lead in the second set and held on for her first title since winning on grass in Berlin last June, also defeating Bencic.

The defeat ended Bencic’s 10-match win streak on Charleston’s green clay.


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