Rising Tunisian tennis star confident ahead of French Open third-round

“My dream is to see a lot more Arab players on tour playing well,” Jabeur told Olympic Channel in August. “And to be honest, I think it’s not impossible now".
Friday 02/10/2020
Tunesia’s Ons Jabeur plays a shot against Japan’s Nao Hibino in the second round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France. Oct. 1. (AFP)
Tunesia’s Ons Jabeur plays a shot against Japan’s Nao Hibino in the second round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France. Oct. 1. (AFP)

PARIS - Tunisian tennis phenom Ons Jabeur has made another deep run in a Grand Slam tournament, reaching the third round of the French Open as she climbs in the women’s rankings.

Jabeur, who defeated Japan’s Nao Hibino in two sets to secure her a spot in the final 16, says a mental shift helped her break ground in her sport this year.

“I put something in my head that I kind of got sick being all the time in 50 or top 100. I know that I was able to win against some players from top 10, top 20,” said Jabeur, who rose to number 31 in the women’s field at the end of August.

“I was not afraid to push more or get injured. Usually I was kind of stuck in that side with my mind: If I want to push harder, I think that I will get injured. So I took that off my mind. It really helped me.”

Jabeur, 26, will face off against eight-seeded Aryna Sabalenka on Saturday in what is expected to be a close match between similarly-styled opponents.

The Tunisian tennis pro’s strong performance in the first two rounds of Roland-Garros was an impressive turnaround from a surprising first-round defeat in her last showing in Rome. That followed a series of break-out performances in major tournaments the US Open and Australian Open that made international headlines and drew inspiration from aspiring Arab athletes around the world.

Jabeur, from Tunisia’s coastal Monastir governorate, has used her platform to speak out for upcoming athletes in the Arab and African world.

“My dream is to see a lot more Arab players on tour playing well,” Jabeur told Olympic Channel in August. “And to be honest, I think it’s not impossible now.”

“The young generation is much more motivated,” she added. “I can see back in Tunisia, I can see that there is a lot of young, talented players and I hope I can really inspire them.”

As for her own ambitions, Jabeur hopes to push forward and achieve her goal of breaking the top 20 ranking.

“I always want to achieve the top 20 ranking,” the former French Open junior champion said after her second round victory.

“Obviously, it’s going to be different this year because there is not a lot of tournaments. But it’s the same goals. I’m still keeping my motivation on to really play good. To be honest, I’m loving it.”