Dubai-born Bojica makes history with DDFT Win

Dubai-born Bojica makes history with DDFT Win

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Dubai-born Bojica makes history with DDFT Win

There’s no place like home.

17-year-old Stefania Bojica celebrated her historic homecoming with triumphant tears of joy.

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Bojica, the first UAE-born woman to compete in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, went down in history by beating world No. 63 Danka Kovinic 6-3, 7: 6 (2) defeated. She is the first domestic player to win at the tournament.

Bojica, who was born in Dubai to Romanian parents, only learned on Thursday night that she had been handed a qualifying wildcard, but she didn’t look out of place against a 28-year-old opponent who has reached four WTA singles finals.

Tennis Express

Cheered on by a raucous crowd ready to brave the morning sun on Court 3 at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Bojica defeated an experienced 11-year-old to earn a spot in Saturday’s second qualifying round.

“I was a bit emotional,” said Bojica, who burst into tears in the arms of her coach Andreu Gimeno as soon as she left the pitch. “I still can’t get over the fact that I got my first WTA win. I’m so happy.

“The crowd really helped motivate me to keep going. Today is an open door – I can see now that I can compete at this level. I still have to work hard, keep evolving and getting better, but it has been amazing.”

Bojica, who started playing at the age of four and trains with CF Tennis Academy, made her WTA debut earlier this month in Abu Dhabi, where she lost in straight sets to American Claire Liu, then world No. 52 .

In Dubai, perhaps with that thought in mind, she started a little nervously, dropping her first serve before regaining a 5-2 lead, playing confidently from the baseline and saving six break points from seven.

Facing a 5-2 deficit in the second set, Bojica showed resilience with a comeback, ending the historic win with a double fault from Kovinic.

“I had the feeling that I had nothing to lose,” added Bojica, who now meets Katarina Zavatska in the second qualifying round on Saturday morning. “I felt like there was no pressure as I was playing against someone with a much better ranking than me, so I came onto the court aiming to play my best tennis and luckily I did.”

Coach Gimeno, a CF Tennis Academy director and firstborn son of 1972 French Open winner Andres Gimeno, said he had mixed feelings after watching the coming of age of a young woman he has worked with since birth five.

“Seeing her on the pitch like she did today makes me very proud,” said an emotional Gimeno. “During the game I tried to keep them calm when the game wasn’t going in their favour.

“Stefi kept the right tension and regained the momentum to make it 5:5. At that moment I started to believe in our chance because it served very well. Going into the tie-break she was more relaxed, which was key.”

The women’s event of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships was first held in 2001 and has grown into a $2.9 million WTA 1000 event.

Salah Tahlak, Joint COO and Tournament Director, formerly Director of the UAE Tennis Federation, has regularly given wild card opportunities to locally trained players.

“Congratulations to Stefania and her entire coaching staff,” said Tahlak, “to see her make history today by becoming the first woman born and raised in the United Arab Emirates to compete in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships – and won against an opponent ranked so high in the WTA rankings – is a very special moment for everyone.

“It’s a testament to the fantastic work being done here in the UAE to develop the game from the grassroots and create a path to a professional sports career. We wish her all the best for the rest of the tournament.”

Tickets for the 31st edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships are on sale now at from Dh55

Photo credit: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

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