Jabeur, Bencic to square off for Charleston Open title

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CHARLESTON, S.C. – No. 4 seed Ons Jabeur continued her run of success the past two years at the Charleston Open, overcoming Amanda Anisimova 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 to reach the championship.

Jabeur of Tunisia will face Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, a 6-4, 6-3 winner of Ekaterina Alexandrova.

For Jabeur, it was just more good play on the green clay surface at Charleston. She reached the semifinals of this event last year. A week later in a second tournament at the facility, Jabeur got a step further before losing in the final.

Now, Jabeur has another chance of gaining her first win here and her second on the WTA tour.

“I was ready for this,” Jabeur said of Anisimova’s forceful style. “Kind of slow a little bit at the beginning, but I’m glad I didn’t let it slip away from me.”

Jabeur had breezed through her first three matches without dropping a set. But Anisimova, the 20-year-old seeded 15th, pounced quickly on Jabeur’s mistakes to grab the first set. After Jabeur roared back to take the second set, Anisimova opened a 3-1 lead in the decider.

Once more, Jabeur dug in to win five of the last six games and move forward. Jabeur and Bencic have only played once, the Swiss woman winning last year on the red clay of Madrid when Jabeur retired in the second set.

“I think it’s going to be an interesting match,” Jabeur said. “She plays kind of the same style as (Anisimova), you know hits hard. So I’ve got to say I got ready from the three sets today and hopefully, I can start good tomorrow.”

In Charleston, Bencic, ran off to a 4-1 lead, but Alexandrova won the next three games to tie things. That’s when Bencic called on her steady serve and solid groundstrokes to close out the set, breaking Alexandrova’s serve to grab the lead before holding serve to end it.

Bencic won the final three games of the second to close out the match. She closed it with her fifth ace to reach her 14th WTA final. Bencic will look for her sixth career tour title.

Bencic said she started well and was surprised that Alexandrova tied it.

“I didn’t think I did anything wrong and it was 4-4,” Bencic said. “I mean, it was easier for me to accept that more than if I would do something wrong. So I was just like, `OK, I’m just going to keep going.”‘

It hasn’t been an easy path to the finals for Bencic at the year’s opening clay-court event. She was two points away from elimination by China’s Xiyu Wang in her first match here before winning a second-set tiebreak and rallying for a three-set victory.

Bencic lost the first set to No. 2 Paula Badosa of Spain in the quarterfinals and again used a second-set tiebreak win on the way to her first victory over Badosa in four tries.

Bencic feels comfortable and confident heading to the finals, planning on a good dinner and a good rest. “I think it’s not going to be worse than before the Olympic final,” she said. “That was a sleepless night.”

Jabeur bounces back at French Open, Ruud and Andreeva advance

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PARIS — Ons Jabeur got a do-over on Court Philippe Chatrier at the French Open and won this time.

A year after her first-round exit, the No. 7 seed Jabeur beat Lucia Bronzetti 6-4, 6-1 to help erase some bad memories and answer questions about a recent calf injury.

The Tunisian, a crowd favorite in Paris, smiled and expressed relief in not repeating last year’s mistake, when she lost to Magda Linette of Poland.

“I’m very happy to win my first match on Philippe Chatrier – because I’ve never won here,” Jabeur said on court about the clay-court tournament’s main stadium.

Now she can focus on trying to win her first major. She was runner-up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year.

The 28-year-old Jabeur has also battled injuries this season. She had knee surgery after the Australian Open, and was then sidelined with a calf injury. She had stopped playing against top-ranked Iga Swiatek at the clay-court tournament in Stuttgart, Germany, in late April and then pulled out of the Madrid Open.

“It was a very difficult period for me after Stuttgart,” said Jabeur, adding that she’s beginning to find her rhythm.

Jabeur struck 27 winner’s to Bronzetti’s seven, though with 24 unforced errors she’ll have room to improve.

Mirra Andreeva had a memorable Grand Slam debut by dominating Alison Riske-Amritraj 6-2, 6-1. Andreeva’s older sister – 18-year-old Erika – was facing Emma Navarro later in the day.

Later, Swiatek gets her French Open title defense started against Cristina Bucsa, who is ranked 70th.

On the men’s side, No. 4 seed Casper Ruud beat qualifier Elias Ymer 6-4, 6-3, 6-2, to remind the higher-profile tournament favorites that he was runner-up to Rafael Nadal last year at Roland Garros.

New mom Elina Svitolina beats seeded player at French Open in 1st Slam match in 16 months

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PARIS — So much has changed for Elina Svitolina, who played – and won – her first Grand Slam match in nearly 1 1/2 years at the French Open, eliminating 2022 semifinalist Martina Trevisan 6-2, 6-2.

For one thing, she’s now a mother: Svitolina and her husband, French tennis player Gael Monfils, welcomed their daughter, Skaï, in October. For another, Svitolina is now ranked 192nd, nowhere near the career high of No. 3 she first reached in 2017, back in the days when she was regularly reaching the second weeks of major tournaments – including a pair of semifinal runs. Away from the courts, her home country of Ukraine was invaded by Russia last year, and the war continues.

“Everything,” she said, “is kind of old and new for me right now.”

In sum, Svitolina is juggling a lot nowadays.

She hadn’t played at a Slam since a third-round exit at the Australian Open in January 2022. She hadn’t played a match anywhere since March 2022, when she was still ranked 20th.

“It was always in my head … to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” the 28-year-old Svitolina said.

The work to return to the tour after giving birth began this January; her initial WTA match came at Charleston, South Carolina, in April. She won her first title since returning to action, at a smaller event on red clay in Strasbourg, France.

At Roland Garros, she used her big forehand to compile a 20-12 edge in winners and never faced a single break point against Trevisan, who was seeded 26th.

Trevisan cried as she spoke after the match about a problem with her right foot that made it difficult to even walk and prompted her to stop playing during her quarterfinal last week at the Morocco Open, where she was the defending champion.

Still, she gave Svitolina credit.

“Even though she’s just coming back from having a daughter, she’s a champion,” Trevisan said. “And she’s coming off a title, so she’s confident.”

Svitolina talked about feeling “awful when you’re pregnant, especially the last months,” but getting into a position now where she thinks she’s stronger than before – in more ways than one.

“I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court and, match by match, I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental (state) can influence your physicality, as well,” she said. “I tried to find the balance, and I feel like I’m seeing (things) a little bit again differently as well after the break. Everything is getting there. The puzzles are getting slowly into place.”