Ons Jabeur eyeing further progress under new coach, faces Elena Vesnina in Australian Open first round

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Tunisian Ons Jabeur has started the new season with new coach, Diego Veronelli, in her corner and her husband, Karim Kamoun, serving as her fitness trainer, as she looks to back up her breakthrough 2017 with more success over the next 12 months.

Jabeur, who became the first Arab woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam in singles at last year’s Roland Garros, is ranked 95 in the world and will be playing just her second major as a direct entrant this fortnight in Melbourne.

The 23-year-old starts her Australian Open campaign against 16th-seeded Elena Vesnina on Tuesday, looking for her first match win of the 2018 season.

Jabeur spent the first part of her preparations for 2018 at Empire Tennis Academy in Trnava, Slovakia alongside other WTA players like Daria Kasatkina and Kateryna Kozlova, before travelling to Dubai, where she met up with her new coach Veronelli, who previously coached Heather Watson.

“It’s going pretty good, I like the practice with him. It’s a new challenge, new experience for me so I’m looking forward to our first tournament and see how it goes,” Jabeur told Sport360 in Dubai last month.

Veronelli, an Argentinean former player, and Jabeur hit it off from the start, and they finish their practices by competing against each other in various challenges — it was a serving contest the day I attended her practice.

“We always compete, not only on the serve. It’s kind of funny because I told him from day one, ‘I love challenges, so if you make me do a challenge, even if I’m 100 per cent tired, I’m going to be on fire,” explained Jabeur.

“So that’s what we’ve been doing since day one. This morning we were doing a lot things today, he lost so he had to do some burpees, but then I lost so I had to do also, but it’s fun, I like it that way.”

Jabeur started travelling with her husband Kamoun as her fitness trainer in the second half of last season. Kamoun, a Tunisian-Russian, who is a former fencer, can be seen on the sidelines during her practices, taking notes and writing up training programmes for his wife.

“He’s kind of torturing me on the court and then after I just want to punch him so I don’t know how it’s going to be,” Jabeur says laughing.

“No but we try to be professional on the court and forget a little bit that he’s my husband. For now it’s going good but we’ll see after a few months.”

Jabeur is a crafty young player with high tennis IQ. She won Roland Garros junior champion and made her top-100 debut last year.

“I’ve noticed she has a lot of potential. Of course a lot of things to improve, and those things don’t come day to night, it takes some time, but there’s hope and I like that in a player,” says Veronelli.

Jabeur will be competing in her second Australian Open main draw (lost in 2015 first round) but faces a tricky task against the 19th-ranked Vesnina.

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