When Camila Osorio Ons hugged Jabeur at the net after Tuesday's game, it almost looked like she was holding Jabeur upright. Jabeur was exhausted and drained, sweat soaking her tennis uniform. She had managed to defeat Osorio 7-5, 7-6(4), but she was so tired and shaky that Osorio asked her if she was ok.
“I told her, ‘Not really,'” said Jabeur, a fifth-seeded Tunisian in singles, in an on-pitch interview after her first-round win at the US Open.
Jabeur reached the final of this tournament last year and is a sentimental favorite of tennis fans around the world. But those fans will worry about whether Jabeur is healthy enough to return to the league game. Jabeur mentioned last week that she was suffering from a stuffy nose, but this seemed to have gotten significantly worse on Tuesday. She left the Queens venue after her match and will have a day to recover before taking on Linda Noskova, an unseeded 18-year-old Czech, in the second round on Thursday.
Several weeks have not gone smoothly for Jabeur since losing to Marketa Vondrousova in the Wimbledon final in July. After that demoralizing loss, she took time off and then played the Western & Southern Open outside of Cincinnati, where she won two games before losing to Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets. During that game, Jabeur required medical attention for a foot injury.
This illness didn't seem to affect her game against Osorio, an unseeded Colombian, but Jabeur still needed the help of a tournament doctor due to her illness during the game. She was on medication and while she managed to stay upright and win, it was obviously a struggle. She was sweating through her clothes and eventually had to change her uniform entirely. She apologized to Osorio on the net for all the delays.
“I know it's difficult to play against a player who's injured or doesn't feel comfortable on the pitch,” said Jabeur.
Playing at Louis Armstrong Stadium, Jabeur said crowd support helped her through the game, as did Coco Gauff, the sixth-seeded American star, said the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium helped her on Monday helped in her hard-fought game against Germany's Laura Siegemund. A prolonged argument over how long it took Siegemund to serve and be able to take Gauff's serves added to the tension. The pro-Gauff crowd turned against Siegemund, who later said she was grossly mistreated.
“I have to say I'm very, very disappointed with how people treated me today,” she said.
She added: “They had no respect for the player that I am. They have no respect for tennis, good tennis. I have to say it really hurts a lot.”
Fans clapped when Siegemund missed her first serve, which is not considered proper decency in tennis, and even Gauff motioned for the crowd to stop on several occasions. Even with tough rallies that Siegemund won, there were times when nobody clapped for them.
In contrast, on Tuesday at Armstrong Stadium, where both Jabeur and Osorio played without any tension, all was love and respect. When it was over, fans sang “Happy Birthday” to Jabeur, who turned 29 on Monday.
“I feel blessed to have all of this,” Jabeur told fans. “For me it's more important than winning any game because I know that you will cherish the love you get from people until the end of your life, not your career.”