Age no bar for Andreeva as she beats Jabeur | Tennis News - Hindustan Times

Age no bar for Mirra Andreeva as she beats sixth seed Ons Jabeur at Australian Open

By, Mumbai
Jan 17, 2024 09:46 PM IST

The 16-year-old displayed ruthlessness and composure in equal measure to down the sixth seed.

Blazing forehand winners down the line, off backhands that paint the baseline at the other end, drop shots disguised to perfection, clutch serves – Mirra Andreeva showcased her full repertoire in the second round of the Australian Open on Wednesday. That too against sixth seed Ons Jabeur. Looking at the 16-year-old run circles around her far-more-accomplished opponent, one couldn’t help but marvel at her clarity of thought at such a young age.

Russia's Mirra Andreeva (R) hugs Tunisia's Ons Jabeur after their women's singles match (AFP)
Russia's Mirra Andreeva (R) hugs Tunisia's Ons Jabeur after their women's singles match (AFP)

At the highest level of a sport, the margins are usually slim and momentum shifts are always around the corner. But in her 6-0, 6-2 win against a three-time Major finalist, that took merely 54 minutes, Andreeva displayed the sort of ruthlessness one would expect to see when a multiple-time Grand Slam champion takes on a youngster like herself.

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As impressive as her shotmaking was the composure in her decision-making, with the Russian hardly ever looking rushed throughout the match. Her movement was explosive, which forced Jabeur to make an extra shot consistently, but the maturity with which she picked her angles was what really stood out.

Jabeur, who had suffered a heartbreaking defeat in the Wimbledon final last year, has had an underwhelming run over the past six months. She won the WTA 250 event in Ningbo but didn’t go past the quarter-final stage in the other seven tournaments she played during this period. Competing in her first event since the WTA Finals last November, the Tunisian made 24 unforced errors and never really found rhythm on Wednesday.

Having said that, Andreeva, with her immense creativity, deserved all the credit for beating Jabeur at her own game and maintaining an incredibly high level from start to finish.

Ranked 47th in the world, Andreeva was playing at the Rod Laver Arena for the second time, having finished as runner-up at the junior Australian Open last year. It was at the 2023 French Open, though, where she truly began to get noticed as she made her senior Grand Slam debut. She reached the third round at Roland Garros, before making the pre-quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the second round at the US Open.

The teenager’s latest victory is vindication for those who’ve been predicting big things from her in the future.

“I was really nervous before the match because I’m really inspired by Ons, by the way she plays,” said Andreeva after achieving her first-ever win against a top-10 player. “I saw that she was nervous too, which kind of helped me. I just decided to just enjoy because it's the Rod Laver Arena and I'm playing against the person that I like. I decided just to play, and I think I played okay.

“It was probably my best match. I didn't expect to play that well in the opener. The second set was also not bad. So, yes, for me it was an amazing match. I'm super happy with the level that I showed today.”

For Andreeva, there’s a long way to go as she aims to keep climbing the ranks. And in terms of inspiration, she need not look further than another teenager in the draw – Coco Gauff. The 19-year-old, too, had tasted success early in her career and has kept going from strength to strength.

Gauff has had to overcome a number of hurdles since becoming the youngest player to reach the main draw at Wimbledon as a 15-year-old. She probably still isn’t among the hardest ball-strikers on the circuit and has had to do extensive work on her serve. But as of today, having won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open last September, she is one of the most well-rounded players going around.

In her second-round match at the Margaret Court Arena, the fourth-seeded American was pushed in the opener by her compatriot Caroline Dolehide but came clutch in the tie-breaker before breezing through the second set. Gauff’s calmness under pressure can trick one into forgetting how young she still is, which is also a testament to how hard she has worked on developing her game and mentality.

Andreeva’s sensational win was undoubtedly the headline act at Melbourne Park on Wednesday. Overall, with 20-year-old Maria Timofeeva also beating 2018 champion Caroline Wozniacki, it was a remarkable day for women’s singles tennis as the young guns made a statement.

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