Dubai-born Bojica makes history at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships - GulfToday

Dubai-born Bojica makes history at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships


Stefania Bojica returns the ball during the match in Dubai.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

Not content with becoming the first UAE-born female to compete in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, 17-year-old amateur Stefania Bojica underlined her name in the tournament’s history books by defeating World No.63 Danka Kovinic in her first-round qualifying match – to the open-mouthed amazement of her coaching team.

Bojica, born in Dubai to Romanian parents, only discovered she had received a wildcard on Thursday evening, yet she did not look out of place against a 28-year-old opponent who has reached four WTA singles finals.

Cheered on by a vocal crowd willing to brave the mid morning sun on Court 3 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Bojica overcame the experienced Kovinic 6-3, 7-6 (2) to book a place in Saturday’s second round of qualifying. “I was a little bit emotional,” said Bojica, who burst into tears in the arms of her coach Andreu Gimeno immediately after exiting the court.

“I still can’t process in my mind that I got my first WTA win. I’m so happy. The crowd was helping me a lot to motivate me to keep going. Today represents an open door – I can see now that I can compete at this level. I still need to work hard, keep progressing, and getting better, but this has been amazing.”

Bojica, who first started playing at the age of four and trains with the CF Tennis Academy, made her WTA debut earlier this month in Abu Dhabi, where she fell in straight sets to American Claire Liu, then ranked World No.52. In Dubai, perhaps with that on her mind, she started a little nervously, dropping her first service game before powering back to race into a 5-2 lead, playing confidently from the baseline, and saving six out of seven breakpoints. In the second set, after ceding a little momentum, she showed great mental fortitude to battle back from 2-5 down to force a tiebreak, which she closed out when Kovinic double-faulted. “I felt I had nothing to lose,” added Bojica. “I felt I had no pressure as I was playing against someone with a much better ranking than me, so I came on the court with the aim of playing my best tennis and thankfully that’s what I did.”

Coach Gimeno, a director at the CF Tennis Academy and first-born son of 1972 French Open winner Andres, said he was feeling mixed emotions after watching the coming-of-age of a young woman he has been working with since she was just five. “To see her on the court performing as she did today makes me very proud,” said an emotional Gimeno. “During the game I was trying to keep her calm when the match was not going in her favour. Stefi kept the right tension and recovered the momentum to take it to 5-5. At that moment, I started to believe we had a chance because she served very well. When it went to the tiebreak, she was more relaxed, which was crucial.”

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