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Admiration for idol as Andreeva blasts past Jabeur

  • Vivienne Christie

There was a time when 16-year-old Mirra Andreeva was intimidated by her tennis idols.

After Andy Murray congratulated the teenager on her early success on the WTA Tour, Andreeva famously described the former world No.1 as “beautiful”. She was far too shy, however, to strike up a conversation when they met several months on at Wimbledon.

DRAW: Australian Open 2024 women’s singles

Ons Jabeur was a far more influential figure in her list of heroes, with Andreeva describing the Tunisian as the player whose style she’d most love to emulate. She’d have been excused some jitters when they competed for the first time on tour in the AO 2024 second round. 

Instead, the world No.47 was simply flawless against her idol, completing her 6-0 6-2 victory over the world No.6 with deft touch, perfect placement and impervious composure in their 54 minutes on court.

“I was really nervous before the match because I’m really inspired by Ons, by the way she plays,” said Andreeva on recording the first top-10 win of her career. “Before I started to play on the WTA Tour, I always watched her matches and I was always so inspired.

“Now I had a chance to play against her and honestly in the first set, I showed amazing tennis. I honestly didn’t expect that from myself.”

Making her Australian Open debut and contesting only her fourth Grand Slam main draw, Andreeva was the more authoritative player from start to finish as she handed Jabeur the most lopsided major loss of her career. 

Registering 13 winners against 10 unforced errors, Andreeva faced only one break point – which she easily saved – for the match. Jabeur, by contrast, recorded 24 unforced errors and a meagre nine winners as she struggled to find any rhythm against her inspired young opponent. 

At age 16 and 263 days, Andreeva was the youngest player in the Open era to claim a 6-0 opening set against a top-10 seed at a Slam.

“Probably it was the best match,” she agreed, when asked if it was most accomplished performance of her career. “The first set, as I said, I didn't expect that I would play this good. [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 on the court.”

It showed how far the Siberian-born teenager had come since she lost an epic Australian Open girls’ final to her close friend Alina Korneeva last year.

“After I lost the final, I was just super upset. I didn't think about anything else. For maybe a week I was just replaying the match in my head, and I was thinking, ‘I should have changed this, should have changed that’,” Andreeva related.

“Honestly, after that, after all my complaints to myself, I forgot about this match. I decided to move on. It's not the most painful loss of my life ... I just moved on.

“Today when I saw that I play on Rod Laver, I said that this time I have to take my chance and I have to win on the big court for the first time, and so I did.”

It underlines the remarkable maturity that also helped Andreeva manage her nerves against Jabeur.

“I was really nervous before the match, but I saw that she was nervous too,” she pointed out.

“It kind of helped me, because I know I'm not the only one who is nervous before the match.
“I just decided to just enjoy, because it's Rod Laver Arena, I'm playing against the person that I like. I decided just to play, and I think I played okay.”

With her Grand Slam record growing – as a qualifier at both, she reached the third round of Roland-Garros and fourth round at Wimbledon last year– Andreeva will next face Kamilla Rakhimova or Diane Parry.

Meanwhile, Jabeur remains an inspirational figure in the teenager’s career.

“Just the way she's on the court and off the court. She's so nice,” she explained of the Tunisian’s qualities she most admires. 

“Now, after the match, she came to me, she wished me luck. I just know that she is who she is and she never change. That's what I like about her.”