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Dubai-Born Bojica Makes History with Dubai Qualifying Win

Stefania Bojica is the first UAE-born woman to play, and win a match, at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Photo credit: Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships

There’s no place like home.

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

The first UAE-born woman to compete in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Bojica burst into the history books by defeating world No.63 Danka Kovinic, 6-3, 7-6(2) in her qualifying opener today. She is the first homegrown player to earn a win at the tournament.

Born in Dubai to Romanian parents, Bojica only learned she received a qualifying wild card 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 midmorning sun on Court 3 at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Bojica overcame an experienced 11 years her senior 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.

n 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.

Facing a 2-5 second-set deficit, Bojica showed her resilience with a comeback, closing the historic victory on a Kovinic double fault.

“I felt I had nothing to lose,” added Bojica, who will now face Katarina Zavatska on Saturday morning in the second round of qualifying. “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 Gimeno, 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 favor.

“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.”

Tickets for the 31st edition of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships are on sale now at dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com, starting from Dh55