Can Ons Jabeur Pose a Threat to Iga Swiatek’s Roland Garros Bid?

Can Madrid champion Ons Jabeur pose a threat at Roland Garros?
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Ons Jabeur is the 2022 Madrid Open champion. The Tunisian beat Jessica Pegula, 7-5 0-6 6-2, in what was a very back and forth final. By doing so, Jabeur became the first African player to win a title of this magnitude. But does she have what it takes to trouble the seemingly unstoppable Iga Swiatek at Roland Garros later this month?

The queen of the drop-shot is one of the most popular players on tour, amongst both fans and players, and this was clear to see from the response she received in the Spanish capital. Jabeur is often seen as the ‘nearly woman’, collecting many wins on the tour (joint most in 2021), but not getting the titles she perhaps deserves. This was epitomised last month in Charleston, when she was beaten in a tight three set match by Belinda Bencic in the final.

Although this success in Madrid is not Jabeur’s first title, with the first coming in Birmingham last year, it does feel like a turning point in the 27 year old’s career. Winning a WTA1000 title puts you amongst some of the biggest names in women’s tennis, showing the mentality shift from her previous finals.

Jabeur’s Route to the Madrid Open Title

First round – Beat Jasmine Paolini, 7-6 6-1

Second round – Beat Varvara Gracheva, 7-5 0-6 6-4.

Third round – Beat Belinda Bencic, 6-2 3-6 6-2.

Quarterfinal – Beat Simona Halep, 6-3 6-2.

Semifinal – Beat Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-2 6-3.

Final – Beat Jessica Pegula, 7-5 0-6 6-2.

Beating Bencic in the third round must have felt extremely good for Jabeur, following their most recent encounter in Charleston. The way she responded in the third set against Pegula is also something to note, as in previous tournaments she probably would not have been able to reset in the way she did on Saturday. Although there are so many positives for her to take from this tournament, it is also key to mention that the world #1 Swiatek was not present in Madrid.

The Pole decided to skip this event to rest her shoulder, which was probably sore after lifting so many trophies in such a short space of time. She has been dominant since late February, filling the shoes of Ash Barty perfectly. This has resulted in 23 consecutive wins and counting, leading to four titles in a row.

Swiatek vs Jabeur Head-to-Head

Despite Swiatek’s rich vain of form as of late, there is evidence to suggest that Jabeur could cause the Pole some issues at the second Grand Slam of the year. In their three career meetings, the Tunisian has had the better of the head-to-head, with her two wins coming last year.

First meeting: Washington DC (2019) – Iga Swiatek won, 4-6 6-4 6-4.

Second meeting: Wimbledon (2021) – Ons Jabeur won, 5-7 6-1 6-1.

Third meeting: Cincinnati (2021) – Ons Jabeur won, 6-3 6-3.

Obviously, Swiatek in 2022 is a completely different beast, but it shows that Jabeur’s unpredictable variety has caused issues for the Pole like it has for many players on the tour.

The current best player in women’s tennis will return in Rome next week, to defend her title from last year. Jabeur is also scheduled to be competing in the Italian Open, and will start her campaign against a tricky opponent in Sorana Cirstea. This will be the last significant event before Roland Garros begins at the end of this month. Will Iga Swiatek be lifting The Suzanne-Lenglen Cup for the second time in her career, or could Ons Jabeur break uncharted territories to become the first African to win a Grand Slam title.

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