Tunisian Tennis Star Ons Jabeur Prepares For Tokyo Olympics

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Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur is looking to break into the world top 10 as she prepares to make a third appearance at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, and her expectations are significantly higher than they were in 2016 or 2012.

Jabeur’s previous Olympic participations came courtesy of an ITF quota placement, but this time the Tunisian heads to Tokyo as a top-30 player – one who features regularly in the latter stages of tournaments.

“I’m aiming bigger this year, hopefully. Before, it was an experience going to this kind of big tournament and this year I’m going with a goal, I’m going for the medal,” Jabeur said in an interview.

Despite losing in the first round on her two previous attempts at the Gamess, Jabeur has plenty to be proud of.

On the grass courts of Wimbledon at London 2012, ranked 297 in the world, a 17-year-old Jabeur took the first set against German world No 17 Sabine Lisicki before succumbing in three sets. Lisicki made the Wimbledon final a year later.

In Rio 2016, ranked 187, the North African grabbed a one-set lead over a 27th-ranked Daria Kasatkina but ultimately bowed out.

Jabeur admits she feels a “different kind of pressure” when she’s competing at the Olympics. Tennis players at the Games do not earn prize money nor ranking points, which Jabeur says makes the Olympics special.

The Tunisian’s rise has been inspirational. After making headlines back home for lifting the 2011 Roland Garros junior trophy at the age of 16, the Tunisian initially struggled to replicate that success on the senior circuit.

With no proper guidance and with no proven template to follow, Jabeur had to carve her own path until she finally cracked the top 100 in 2017.

“I would say that when I was in juniors I messed up a little bit. I was trying always to be that independent woman that tries to do everything, I was curious to know everything,” Jabeur added.

“I was looking around all the time, trying to understand the tour. I would say I was lost for a while, I didn’t know where to go sometimes.”

Jabeur has made a significant leap in the past two years, now ranked 31 and rising, she tips her hat to those who have helped her along the way, and hopes to pay it forward by helping the upcoming generation of Arab players.

 

Chidi Nwoke/The National.

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