Tennis-Freedom and flair, Jabeur’s name of the game in French Open hunt

By Thomson Reuters Jun 1, 2024 | 9:12 PM

By Rohith Nair

(Reuters) – Ons Jabeur’s unorthodox playing style caught everyone’s eye when she broke into the women’s tour and despite its risky nature the Tunisian is not willing to compromise on flair and creativity in her quest for a first Grand Slam title at the French Open.

Jabeur’s unconventional and sometimes unpredictable shots have taken her to three Grand Slam finals but she has fallen short each time, still waiting to realise her dream of becoming the first Arab and African woman to claim a major.

The 29-year-old is a fan favourite whose personality shines through on the court and the eighth seed jokingly said she would ‘fire’ her team if they asked her to alter her playing style.

“I have a different game. My character as a woman here is I want to be free, I want to do whatever I want,” Jabeur told reporters.

“I usually hate it when they try to put me in a space and not let me do my thing because I feel like I’m a creative person, I’m intuitive when I play. Don’t tell me, ‘Don’t do that drop shot’, but teach me how to do the drop shot.

“I try always to tell my team, let me do whatever I want because I feel like it’s really important to be myself on the court. That’s when I play the best, that’s how I shout and how I become vocal.”

Known among her fellow professionals as the “Minister of Happiness”, carrying that tag can be overwhelming for Jabeur when things are not going her way on court, but she accepts that life is never perfect.

“I didn’t think about if I am the ‘Minister of Happiness’, I need to be 24/7 happy, which is wrong. I feel like I’m sending the wrong message as well,” said Jabeur, who plays Clara Tauson in the fourth round.

“What I want to always say is I get angry, I get sad. I accept these feelings and it’s okay to do that.

“I cry all the time. I can be happy, but what I want to show … I feel like sometimes a smile could change someone’s day.”

Top seed Iga Swiatek gets Sunday’s action underway when she takes on Russia’s Anastasia Potapova as the Pole looks to extend her winning run on clay to 16 matches.

In the evening session, second seed Jannik Sinner faces Corentin Moutet — France’s last hope in the men’s draw who has made a name for himself by frequently resorting to his underarm serve.

“When I see the opponent far from the line, sometimes it’s an option,” he said after winning nine points with the underarm serve against Sebastian Ofner in the third round.

“It’s a shot that we can use. So if I can use it and win some points, I will use it.”

Meanwhile, Greek ninth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas takes on inspired Italian Matteo Arnaldi, who shocked sixth seed Andrey Rublev when he dumped the Russian out in straight sets.

(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)