Ons Jabeur believes there are promising signs that the work she put in during her preseason preparations is starting to pay off after she claimed her 10th match win of 2017 on Friday in Dubai.
The Tunisian world No172 advanced to the second round of qualifying at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Brazilian Paula Cristina Goncalves and is attempting to reach the main draw of a WTA tournament for a third time this season.
Despite a sandstorm that swept the UAE on Friday, as well as rain that interrupted play, Jabeur got through her opener in 68 minutes, saving seven of the eight break points she faced and breaking her opponent four times.
“I’m happy with the match, for a first round it was really good,” the 22-year-old Jabeur told Sport360.
“Maybe I could have won a bit easier but it was windy and that didn’t really help. I played my game. I tried my best to play and to move my opponent a lot because she doesn’t like to move a lot. I’m pretty happy, especially in Dubai, an Arab country, so it’s a special win. So hopefully I’ll continue this way and qualify for the main draw.”
Jabeur broke onto the scene when she won the French Open junior title in 2011 but has yet to break the top-100 on the women’s tour.
She has a unique game highlighted by her deft drop shots and attacking style and, armed by new coach Mislav Hizak of Croatia, seems to be finally on the verge of a breakthrough.
Earlier this month, Jabeur reached the quarter-finals of the WTA event in Taipei as a qualifier. She held four match points against world No13 Elina Svitolina (who beat Serena Williams at the Olympics last year) before bowing out.
“I was a little bit depressed at first. I kept dreaming about the match points I had, it was really tough the first few days but then I said maybe it happened for a reason, it happened to learn from it,” Jabeur confessed.
“I talked to my coach about the match, it was more mentally, I had to be brave in the points but that moment I couldn’t find the good shots I was hitting throughout the match.
“But I still thank God to be in that position and play well. Maybe I lost a quarter-final in that tournament but I feel that something better is coming for me. I don’t regret losing and hopefully I’ll do better in other tournaments, maybe this one.”
Jabeur spent her preseason training with the likes of world No32 Daria Kasatkina and Ukrainian Kateryna Kozlova at the Empire Tennis Academy in Slovakia. She admits it was a brutal few weeks but feels she’s already reaping the rewards.
The North African also said things have been going well with her coach.
“We’re working hard, he’s from Croatia, young, motivated to work with me, and I’m motivated to work with him.
“Hopefully the results will be better. Surely it’s going to pay off, we really worked hard.
“I still have the images in my head from the preseason and it was really tough. With our conditioning coach in the Slovakian Empire Tennis Academy, he really killed us.
“It was amazing with these girls (Kasatkina & Co). They’re professionals. They know when to laugh, they know when we have to be professional and working hard.
“I was kind of like the clown in the group and we had so much fun. The 10 days we spent in the mountains only working fitness it was really tough but also fun. For sure we’re going to repeat that every year.”
Jabeur faces the winner of the clash between Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada, and Nao Hibino of Japan, in the second round of qualifying today. Their match was suspended due to rain yesterday with Gabrowski leading 7-6 (6), 6-4, 4-3.
Meanwhile, Oman’s Fatma Al Nabhani suffered a crushing 6-0, 6-1 to Taipei’s Chang Kai-Chen in 52 minutes.
Al Nabhani has a wildcard for the doubles main draw and will be partnering Germany’s Mona Barthel.