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Tunisia's great hope Jabeur ready for bigger league

Aims to get more exposure at top level

Gulf News

Dubai: Junior French Open winner Ons Jabeur of Tunisia is looking at the bigger picture as she steps up to the demanding WTA Tour.

"I am here for the experience merely because I feel the need to have more exposure to playing at this level," Jabeur told Gulf News as she prepared to play the qualifiers of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships that got under way at the Dubai Tennis Stadium yesterday.

"This is only my second WTA tournament and I am hoping to see myself pushing all the way through to the main draw at least," the Tunisian said before her opening round qualifying match against top seed Jie Zheng of China.

She went on to win 6-3, 7-6.

At the French Open last year, Jabeur lit up a region already in the grip of the Arab Spring movement when she became the first girl from North Africa to win a junior Grand Slam title.

Success in second final

Making her second successive final — she had lost to Ukraine's Elina Svitolina in 2010 — at Roland Garros, Jabeur defeated the No 5 ranked junior Monica Puig 7-6, 6-1 to emulate compatriot Mustafa Belkhodja who won the French Open boys' crown way back in 1956.

"The French Open win is definitely my proudest moment in tennis," Jabeur said. "But as a player who has ambitions, I need to put these memories behind me and look to the future.

"I think I made a statement with that win. But now I have to forget those times and try and set about writing a new story in my career."

That new story of her career started last week at the Qatar Open in Doha where 17-year-old Jabeur had her campaign on the WTA stopped in the opening match itself by Italian Virginie Razzano.

"Since it was my first one I made it a point not to put myself under any sort of pressure," Jabeur said.

"I don't have a good ranking and there is nothing to defend. So I just want to play my game, play some good tennis, and if something good comes from that tennis then it will come.

"For the time-being I need to work more and live more tennis."