Watch: Selima Sfar reacts to Ons Jabeur's historic success at Roland Garros

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  • Selima Sfar, the only Arab woman to ever rank in the top 100, believes her Tunisian compatriot Ons Jabeur is the perfect person to pass on the baton to after the 22-year-old made history by reaching the third round at Roland Garros.

    Jabeur became the first-ever Arab woman to reach the last-32 at a Grand Slam when she upset No6 seed Dominika Cibulkova at the French Open on Wednesday and Sfar, who is now retired and works as a commentator for beIN Sports, could not be happier for her countrywoman and friend.

    “I am extremely proud, I’m extremely happy for her but proud and happy not only for her but all the Arab women, Tunisians, Arabs and Muslim women. This is an amazing message. It’s been a long time that I’ve been waiting maybe to pass (the baton) to someone and Ons came – not only I found somebody to pass it, but to somebody great, somebody with so much talent,” Sfar told Sport360 in the video message above.

    “What happened, during such a symbolic tournament, on such a big court, it can’t be better, so congratulations to her.”

    Jabeur, who made it into the French Open main draw as a lucky loser, faces Swiss No30 seed Timea Bacsinszky in the third round on Friday (fourth match on Court 1 from an 11:00am start), looking to keep her fairy-tale going.

    Her coach, Mislav Hizak, whom she teamed up with at the end of last season, has been pleased with her progress so far this year and can only see her moving onwards and upwards.

    “I believe she is an amazing player and it was amazing to see her at this level, to compete and to win,” Hizak told Sport360 of her win over Cibulkova – the first top-10 win of her career.

    “I feel like she deserved it throughout all the hard work that we’ve put into it, just day-in, day-out, the things that we’ve been doing.

    “This for sure is the best moment of her career and I’m happy for that, the things that she’s improving. She’s a young player, she has many more years of good career, and I know she will only be better.”

    The Croatian coach has seen notable differences since they’ve started working together, particularly with her discipline and work ethic.

    “She’s a good character, an open person, a very communicative person, no doubt about it, a very big character,” he says.

    “I think she picked up her professionalism to a higher level, her discipline, all her attitude, I think it’s grown in her. She understands what needs to be done, she’s making some choices for herself, and some sacrifices, and some right choices. She’s also letting go and communicating with me and trusting me as well. She knows it’s a path, it’s a process and she’s making these things for herself.”

    Jabeur’s friend, Daria Kasatkina, the No26 seed in Paris, also vouched for the hard work the Tunisian has been putting in. They spent their preseason together in Slovakia with Empire Tennis Academy and even did some altitude training in the mountains to prepare for 2017.

    “That was a good one, I was watching yesterday on my phone, she was playing very well I think,” said Kasatkina of Jabeur’s triumph over Cibulkova. “I’m really happy for her because she deserves it. I know how hard she works, we worked together in my academy, so what she has, she deserved. And I hope she can go further and further.”

    Jabeur impressed with her serve in her second round against Cibulkova, as she dropped just two points on her first serve, and saved one of the two break points she faced.

    “That’s a weapon. She has a very good motion on the serve, I think it’s a big weapon for her and her game that we based and we did a lot of work on that in the times that we had for training,” said Hizak.  “We emphasised a lot of her things on the serve as well as on the return – I think we improved that aspect a lot and we’ll still keep on improving it to be really solid as a base of her game. When you have good motion and a good technical movement, you’ve got to use it on this level, it’s a big advantage.”

    Jabeur has had trouble with her fitness in the past but Hizak believes those days are now behind her as she has made significant progress in that area.

    “It’s better. I cannot say it’s the best, of course it can be better and I think she knows that too but since she already improved, she’s not really worried about it because she knows she’s on the right track and I think it will just become even better,” he explained.