Ons Jabeur of Tunisia  in action agianst Alison Riske of USA
Ons Jabeur of Tunisia Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur – arguably the player with the best results for this region – has some unfinished business heading into the new tennis season.

In 2020, the 26-year-old made history while becoming the first Arab woman to reach the quarter-finals of a Slam at the Australian Open. And for good measure, her Melbourne fortnight turned out to be the shape of things to follow as Jabeur recorded a career-best season tallying four additional quarter-final appearances to finish year at a career-high No. 31.

Seeded No. 15 at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open this week, Jabeur has drawn a tough opener against Russia’s big hitter Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, and the Tunisian knows she’s got to be at her best heading into her dress rehearsal for bigger things ahead starting with the Australian Open from early next month.

“I’ve had enough quarter-finals last season. The goals for this year is to go for the titles as I feel I have done enough of hard work during pre-season to be there as a champion. I have the confidence that I can achieve and I can win more and convert those quarter-finals into titles even at the Grand Slams,” Jabeur said during the pre-tournament meeting with media, on Tuesday.

“Basically, I’m a player who doesn’t like to play a lot of tournaments. Needed to recover and help myself before going in and preparing. I am a much more diff player than in 2019. I am putting in a lot of hard work on court. It is much more this year than last. I am finishing all the good practices. I am feeling much stronger this year.

“I always like to surprise the opponent. I do a lot of work in improving my FH and BH and use them to put pressure on the players. I know I need to have control on court. The player doesn’t know what I am going to do on court and that’s the advantage for me.

“I was home and that was really good. We decided to start here in Abu Dhabi and it’s kind of end of the season for me, so it’s good to get into matches and hopefully this will be a good starting point for me. I am pretty happy with these new endorsements as Qatar Airways is my favourite as well. It is good to have support of this sort as it means being recognised at what I’m doing and this in turn motivates me to work harder. Hopefully, I can do better this year as I’ve had such a great pre-season wherein I have worked much harder than last year.”

Since February 2020, Jabeur has been coached by Dubai-based Issam Jellali, a former Tunisian Davis Cup player and she was previously coached by Frenchman Bertrand Perret, with whom she worked for two years.

“The 2020 season was amazing for me. I kept a good level and managed to maintain what I had started in 2019. I could see that I was a different player on court and perhaps this helped me reach No.31 this season. I am sure I will be a much better player this year,” Jabeur reflected.

“The other players know, and I know what I am capable of doing on court. I am confident I have the level to take the next steps and convert the quarter-finals into titles this year. I know I can have a great season,” she added.

“Before, I wanted to be at the top level and now, I know how I can achieve this goal. Right now, I am putting in the hard work and I can see this paying off now. I always try to find the motivation. I have to go very far in my career as I have set professional and personal goals for myself. I always try and remember why I am here and where I want to be,” she insisted.

Jabeur is scheduled to start her campaign at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open against Anastasiya Pavlyuchenkova later on Wednesday.