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Ons Jabeur banishes doubts with an emphatic first-round win over Mirjam Bjorkland at Wimbledon

Third seed Ons Jabeur clears doubts with emphatic first round win over Mirjam Bjorkland at Wimbledon after ‘gaining a lot of confidence’ playing with Serena Williams in Eastbourne

  • Our Jabeur won her match in the first round against Mirjam Bjorkland in 54 minutes
  • The 27-year-old defeated top class Iga Swiatek in the fourth round of Wimbledon last year
  • Serena Williams teamed up with Jabeur in Eastbourne women’s doubles
  • Jabeur said she ‘gained a lot of confidence’ playing alongside Williams

Us Jabeur’s description that he was invited to be Serena Williams’ doubles partner sounded like a personal struggle with imposter syndrome.

“Had she asked me the same thing two or three years ago, I would have played terribly and couldn’t handle the pressure,” the number 3 seed told Monday. Tennis is a difficult sport. You can lose every week, which is not nice. I know about struggling with confidence.’

The Tunisian’s emphatic first-round victory over Swede Mirjam Bjorkland, who hinted she could play a memorable role in the next two weeks, suggests the worst doubts are in the past.

Our Jabeur won her match in the first round over world number 125 Mirjam Bjorkland in 54 minutes

Our Jabeur won her match in the first round over world number 125 Mirjam Bjorkland in 54 minutes

That last year they became the first African and Arab woman to make the last eight here, and then the first to make the world top 10 both helped. Last week she became the new world No. 2.

But it’s clear that working with Williams on her return to tennis last week in Eastbourne has been significant. “She chose me as her partner and when you play alongside Serena, you gain a lot of trust.” said the 27-year-old. “I want to be a leader on the field.”

She was up against Bjorkland, the number 125 in the world, mixing forehands with minimal back-lift – a big part of her game – with her signature drop shots. No one on the women’s tour performs it to perform better.

27-year-old Jabeur beat top class Iga Swiatek in the fourth round of Wimbledon last year

27-year-old Jabeur beat top class Iga Swiatek in the fourth round of Wimbledon last year

Her signature crowd-pleasing plaque, which has the hallmarks of a squash shot and earned the moniker ‘Roger Federer’ in her younger days, was also in attendance.

A drop shot sealed the first set before Bjorkland could pack a punch. A series of unforced Jabeur errors towards the end of the second hand gave the Swede a breaking point. She had the misfortune of being on the wrong side, a faulty line call at 30-40, with the replay point allowing Jabeur to save himself. The little North African turned out to be a comfortable winner in just 54 minutes.

A small Tunisian flag has been waved at the number one court and there is certainly pressure to carry the hopes of a nation and a continent. She paves a path for both.

Serena Williams teamed up with Jabeur in Eastbourne women's doubles earlier this month

Serena Williams teamed up with Jabeur in Eastbourne women’s doubles earlier this month

The weight of that showed when she lost in the first round of the French Open, tipped for the title. “I don’t like making the same mistake twice,” she said after navigating this first lap.

The expectation that Jabeur can bring her unique skills deep into the tournament stems in part from the fact that she defeated top class Iga Swiatek here last year. But after struggling for so long to be a challenger, she’s not afraid to talk about reshaping the pool to become the world’s #1.

“Obviously it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible,” said Jabeur, next up against very serving Canadian Rebecca Marino or qualifier Katarzyna Kawa. “But you never know. However, the most important thing I want to have is the level of number 1′. ‘I don’t just want to be number 1’

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