Jabeur's troubles continue with early Rome exit

tennis10 May 2024 14:57| © AFP
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Ons Jabeur © Gallo Images

Ons Jabeur's tough 2024 continued on Friday after being dumped out of the Rome Open in the second round by Sofia Kenin 7-5, 2-6, 6-4 as defending champion Elena Rybakina was forced to withdraw due to illness.

Tunisia's Jabeur, who is ranked ninth in the world, was beaten by unseeded American Kenin in a gruelling match which lasted two hours and 17 minutes in the hot Rome sunshine.

After reaching the quarterfinals in Madrid Jabeur, who in 2022 became the first Arab and Tunisian player to win a WTA 1000 title, looked to be on the right track.

But she slumped to a poor defeat on Friday, continuing a dreadful season so far in which the 29-year-old has had to deal with a chronic knee injury resurfacing.

Jabeur has a losing record for the year, a far cry from the woman who looked like she had the world at her feat ahead of last year's Wimbledon final, which she lost in straight sets to unfancied Marketa Vondrousova after blasting through a series of Grand Slam champions.

World number 42 Kenin will face either Rebecca Sramkova or Katie Boulter in the third round.

Earlier fifth seed Maria Sakkari swept past qualifier Varvara Gracheva in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.

Former Wimbledon champion Rybakina was supposed to open her title defence in the Italian capital on Friday against Romania's Irina-Camelia Begu.

Instead the 24-year-old, who represents Kazakhstan, has been replaced by lucky loser Oceane Dodin, the world number 73 from France who was eliminated in the second round of qualifying.

"I am disappointed to have to withdraw from Rome this year, but unfortunately I do not feel well enough to compete," world No 4 Rybakina said in a statement.

"I have such good memories from last year and was looking forward to defending my title."