Arantxa Rus Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Dubai: Arantxa Rus, former world No. 1 junior tennis player, is confident she can achieve her rejigged goals heading into a fresh, yet challenging season ahead.

Rus, a quarter-finalist at this week’s 23rd Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge (AHTC), will turn 30 on Sunday. She arrived into Dubai a few days early to continue with her pre-season preparations following a fairly successful truncated 2020 season.

“The idea is to break into the top-50 next season,” Rus told Gulf News after sealing a fluent 6-1, 6-3 win over fellow left-hander from China Xiyu Wang late on Wednesday. “Of course, going deeper into this tournament will definitely help me take a step or two towards my ultimate goal of improving on my rankings.”

The Dutchwoman shot into the limelight when she won the Junior Australian Open in 2008. The win sent her from 35th to second spot on the ITF junior rankings, and she ultimately settled into the top spot a few weeks later.

Rus’s biggest singles successes have come against then world No. 2 Kim Clijsters at the 2011 French Open. Two years later, she advanced to the fourth round at Roland Garros and the same year she defeated world No. 5 Samantha Stosur at Wimbledon.

Rus’s first title on the WTA Tour came only in 2017 when she won the doubles at the Swedish Open while partnering Quirine Lemoine.

However, this season has brought a fresh smile on the face of Rus. She advanced to the second round of the Australian Open and the following week made it to the final of the ITF Egypt, where she went down in the final to Ysaline Bonaventure. Two weeks later Rus lost to Elina Svitolina in the semi-finals of the Monterrey Open just before the world shut down following the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Down and out with the outbreak keeping her and fellow professionals indoors for most of the season, Rus got back on tour when the WTA Tour returned with the Palermo Open at the end of August, where she lost in three sets to Serena Williams. The US Open and the French Open both ended in the opening rounds itself, but Rus kept at it and played the Ostrava Open and Linz Open heading into this week’s Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge, where she was next scheduled to meet second seed Polona Hercog in Thursday’s quarter-finals.

“I am world No. 73 at the moment and getting into a routine that can take me towards my ultimate short-term goal of breaking into the top 50 next season,” Rus said. “I have started working on my mental fitness as I need to be focused all the time when on court. I can’t afford to disconnect even for a second and that would affect my consistency. feel I am on a good path at the moment and I need to stick to the plan heading into 2021.”