British tennis star Emma Raducanu suffered a 6-4 6-1 defeat to Tunisian world No.6 Ons Jabeur in the last 16 of the Abu Dhabi Open on Wednesday.
Raducanu, ranked world No.296 after a long spell out with injury and subsequent surgery, went into the clash as a huge underdog against a player who reached back-to-back Wimbledon finals in 2022 and 2023 – and she ultimately fell short.
The result means that Raducanu, who sensationally registered Grand Slam glory at the US Open in 2021, has still never beaten an opponent inside the world top 10 as she continues her comeback and looks to climb back to the top of the sport.
The Abu Dhabi Open is just the third tournament for Raducanu since April 2023 and she impressively beat world No.36 Marie Bouzkova in the first round, which came after second-round exits at the Australian Open and Auckland Open.
But Wednesday’s match against second-seed Jabeur proved to be too much for Raducanu as the African star, dubbed the ‘Minister of Happiness’, who attracted further fame on Netflix docuseries Break Point, booked her quarter-final spot.
Raducanu got off to a shaky start, suffering a break in the opening game of the first set, with Jabeur’s hold seeing her take a 2-0 lead. The Briton held to love in game three but was unable to break her opponent back as Jabeur went 3-1 up.
The 21-year-old won her next service game to keep the first set alive but Jabeur registered her second break of the match to put herself in firm control. The Tunisian held to put herself within one game of winning the set, but Raducanu refused to give up with a hold of her own before registering her first break.
Jabeur wasted a fourth set point in game nine as Raducanu held, but the 29-year-old got the job done in her following service game to take the first set 6-4 in front of a packed crowd at the WTA 500 event.
The duo traded service games at the start of the second set before Jabeur took the lead with a break in game three – leaving Raducanu with a huge mountain to climb – and another hold from the North African made it 3-1.
Jabeur made it a double break in game five and then held again to put one foot in the quarter-finals, with one final break seeing her wrap up a 6-4 6-1 victory.