Tunisian Ons Jabeur is edging ever so close to becoming the first Arab woman to rank in the world’s top-100 in 15 years thanks to a strong showing at the Volvo Car Open in Charleston last week.
The 22-year-old made full use of her lucky loser spot in the main draw by reaching the third round with wins over Marina Erakovic and Magda Linette before a tight 7-5, 7-6 (6) loss to eighth-seeded Anastasija Sevastova.
Jabeur, the 2011 Roland Garros junior champion, has a 19-9 record so far in 2017 and is now up to No119 in the world rankings, just one spot short of her career-high.
She is looking to become the first Arab to rank in the WTA top-100 since her compatriot Selima Sfar last achieved that feat in 2002.
“It’s amazing to be back at my best ranking and hopefully I’ll continue like this and go even higher,” Jabeur told Sport360°.
“Charleston was a bit weird because I got off with an injury and I wasn’t sure if I was going to play the tournament or not. But then I got some treatment and I was feeling much better. And then I lost in the second round of qualifying a little bit because of the injury but I got a lucky loser spot.
Ons' pre-French Open schedule
- April 10-16: Indian Harbour Beach $80k
- April 17-23: Dothan $60k
- May 1-6: WTA Rabat
- May 15-21: Trnava $100k
“I felt like I wasn’t really out of the tournament anyway and I told my coach to ask if there’s a lucky loser spot or not and I felt I was going to make into the main draw and somehow I got the spot.
“It was a really good tournament because in the first and second rounds I played really well and in the third round (against Sevastova) I was not too far from the win. I felt I played better than her and I was kind of dominating the whole match. I felt I was really close to beating her but it was her day. I’m happy with my performance in Charleston because it could have ended in qualies but I ended up making it to the third round.
“Hopefully next time will be much better because I know I can do better.”
Jabeur is playing an $80k tournament in Indian Harbour Beach, Florida this week, where she is the No5 seed, in a stacked field headlined by Canadian Eugenie Bouchard.
The North African is aware her top-100 dream is close to becoming a reality but she is refusing to be consumed by her mission to reach that goal.
“I feel really close to the top-100 – I am actually really really close,” she said. “I am not even focusing anymore on the rankings though, I’m just focusing more on my game, how I play, and it’s been working out since the beginning of the year. So I’m not going to change anything.
“I’m just going to continue playing, no pressure. And I know that this season I am going to make it into the top-100 because I know I worked really hard.”
Jabeur is not the only one who has worked really hard and is currently reaping the rewards. Her good friend, Daria Kasatkina, claimed her maiden WTA title on Sunday in Charleston after a stellar week for the Russian teenager on clay.
“I am reallyyyy happy for her,” said Jabeur, who spent her offseason training with Kasatkina at altitude in Slovakia. “She played really good and she is on fire because she had dinner once with me there so…” joked the Tunisian.
“She really deserves to win.”
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Karim Mohamed Maamoun has hit a new career-high ranking of No272 after capturing his fifth Futures title of the season in Sharm El Sheikh.
“So happy I was able to win another title today in Sharm El Sheikh after a couple of tough matches,” Maamoun posted on his Instagram last week. “My fifth futures title this season and third in a row. Now it’s time to rest, recover and start preparing for the clay season.”
Maamoun is Egypt’s No2 behind Mohamed Safwat, who lost in qualifying in the Panama City Challenger last week and is playing in San Luis Potosi this week, where he opens against Mexican wildcard Manuel Sanchez.
Tunisian Malek Jaziri was in Davis Cup action over the weekend where he helped secure his nation’s place in the Europe/Africa zonal Group II with a whitewash over a Marcos Baghdatis-led Cyprus.
Jaziri, ranked No58 in the world, is playing the ATP event in Marrakech this week, where he faces Frenchman Jeremy Chardy in the opening round. The other two Arabs in the main draw in the Moroccan city are local wildcards Reda Al Amrani and Amine Ahouda.