Ons Jabeur is continuing to blaze a trail. The highest-ranked Arab woman in WTA Tour history, the Tunisian is in full flight as she faces eighth seed Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals of the Qatar Total Open. Having nearly knocked off eventual champion Simona Halep in Dubai last week, the world number 36 is full of confidence.
Jabeur charting path for future, excited about fan support during tournament
Jabeur talked about the crowd support she received during her third round upset of former Doha champion Karolina Pliskova on Wednesday. "it's a crazy crowd", she said. "they think it's a football match, obviously! But i'm glad they were here to support me. I really apologize to Karolina for the misbehaving in between serves.
"Hopefully the crowd will learn next time to really support during the point. And i'm really glad they came, happy to see all the Tunisian flags, it's an unbelievable feeling and hopefully I can see them Thursday."
A quarterfinal run at the Australian Open, the first Arab woman to reach the final eight of a major, sent Jabeur into the Top 50 for the first time and made her the highest-ranked Arab woman ever. She has her sights set on an even higher ranking.
“I put in my mind that I want to be in Top 20 and I think I'm going in the right track. Most important thing is to improve my game. I see that I'm better with holding the stress or with managing some points, so I think I can really play better and maybe like really, really play and win a good tournament.”
After that result in Melbourne, Jabeur dove head-first into the Middle East swing and took Halep to the wire, losing 9-7 in a third set tiebreaker in the second round. "If it was last year, probably I would be happy because I made three sets against Simona Halep", she told the press in Dubai. "Now i'm more angry because I didn't win the match. I know I could have. I know I had the level to.
"I know it's amazing to see a match court like this with a lot of crowd screaming", she continued. "Definitely for concentration was not easy. [Halep] is obviously more used to this than me. It's a good first time to learn this for me."
Several influential Tunisian political forces were out to see Jabeur's quarterfinal run in Melbourne and she said that she was enjoying the attention that came with it. "I mean, it's a good pressure, I say, it's a good pressure to play good, especially if the President is interested in what you're doing and many other political people were out there following me.
"I'm proud of what i'm doing, I hope I can inspire many people and I mean hopefully it could continue, because I think it's just the start of the season."
She hopes her recent success will inspire young Arab girls to succeed. "I'm really glad that i'm setting the example here. I'm just sending the message that nothing is impossible and they can achieve anything, either in sports or any other level. I'm glad that i'm doing this. I started from the bottom.
"I'm looking forward to see many other women rising in tennis, I mean especially in Tunisia or in Arabic world and Africa. It would mean a lot to me and i'm happy to share my experience one day and then help this young generation."