No.8 seed Ons Jabeur was the first winner of the 2022 Mutua Madrid Open, advancing past Jasmine Paolini 7-6(9), 6-1 in 1 hour and 22 minutes.
Jabeur, making her second appearance at the tournament, is coming off a runner-up showing in Charleston last month. Paolini was bidding for her second career Top 10 win, having gained her first in Indian Wells over Aryna Sabalenka. The pair had never played before.
Match management: It was a match of two halves: an absorbingly tight first set in which Jabeur struggled to put away Paolini, and a more straightforward second set.
Jabeur took a few games to find her range, allowing Paolini to build a 3-0 lead. But after a brief interruption at that point due to a misbehaving soundsystem, the World No.10’s accuracy on her forehand improved.
But Paolini showed impressive determination in the face of Jabeur’s creativity and aggression. She regained her break lead for 4-2, and even when Jabeur overturned this deficit, prevented the Tunisian from serving out the set twice. In a nailbiting tiebreak, Paolini saved four set points – one with a marvellous off backhand pass – before succumbing on the fifth with a netted forehand.
With the opening act under her belt, Jabeur’s tennis became more relaxed and free-flowing. She claimed the first break by coming out on top of a bruising forehand-to-forehand exchange, and accelerated to the finishing line from there.
By the numbers: Jabeur’s superior aggression was evidenced by her 33 winners to Paolini’s seven. Whereas she also committed 44 unforced errors, Paolini’s 22 made for a far more unbalanced ratio for the Italian.
What’s next for Jabeur: A second-round clash against either Alizé Cornet or qualifier Varvara Gracheva.
More to come…