Jabeur juggles religion and sport at dream French Open

Juggling sport and religion is helping Ons Jabeur to make a dream debut at the French Open.

Jabeur, who is playing in the main singles draw at Roland Garros for the first time, beat sixth-seeded Dominikia Cibulkova in straight sets on Wednesday to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time in her career.

The Tunisian is a Muslim, but is not fasting during her time at the tournament this Ramadan, which started on Friday and finishes on June 24.

Jabeur said instead she is using a sort of “credit system” where she will atone for the days she missed after the tournament.

“It’s hard to think about Ramadan,” Jabeur said. “I mean, I can’t not eat or drink … obviously I cannot do 30 days in a row. But I just have to do it before the next Ramadan, for sure.”

Jabeur could have plenty of days to catch up on.

The 22-year-old had only played two Grand Slam matches before the French Open began and only made it out qualifying as a “lucky loser” when another player withdrew. But she didn’t let the occasion faze her.

Jabeur won 6-4, 6-3 to become the first Arab woman to reach the third round of a major, and the first lucky loser to do so at Roland Garros in more than two decades.

She hit plenty of drop shots among her 30 winners and sealed victory on her third match point, when Cibulkova double-faulted. Jabeur struggled to hold back the tears as she ran over to her team to grab a Tunisian flag which she held over her head

“Well, when I win, I represent the Arab world. When I lose, I try to be just Ons Jabeur,” she said with a smile. “We are small country. The Arab world is like when you do something good, you’re from Tunisia, and from Morocco, other Arab country, they get interested in you.

“For me, it’s not only about Tunisia anymore, and it’s all about the Arab country, African continent. It’s amazing, because I feel like my country is getting bigger and bigger.”

It was another disappointing performance from Cibulkova, who won the WTA Finals in October but came to Paris without winning back-to-back matches on clay this year.

“I don’t know what happened today, because I felt really, really well before the tournament and also in the first round,” the Slovakian said. “Nothing was working for me today. I was pretty soft and I let her play really aggressive.

“Nothing working, from the serve, return and all my weapons were just not there today.”

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