Ons Jabeur ‘happy’ to be at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open as she prepares for another shot at Wimbledon title
ABU DHABI: Ons Jabeur is “happy” to be at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open as she prepares for another shot at the Wimbledon title.
Jabeur was speaking in Abu Dhabi ahead of the start of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, a competition she had missed last year through injury.
“I think the best tournaments you play honestly, it’s in Abu Dhabi, in the Middle East in general,” the Tunisian star said. “I love to come back here, I love to play here.”
“Unfortunately last year I missed it, but I am very happy to be healthy, and playing this tournament again,” she said. “I just feel like home and I think organization-wise, every player would say that it’s one of the best tournaments for sure.”
Jabeur admits that at this early stage of the season, she is still finding her fitness, with the “Gulf Swing” of tournaments — in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai — providing a platform to find her best form.
“I need more matches for sure,” she said. I am starting here with one of the tournaments that have a high level for sure.”
“For a (WTA) 500, it’s really amazing to be back for sure and play the next tournaments as well. I definitely need more matches so hopefully that will give me the motivation to start a great season.”
In the last two years, Jabeur has reached three Grand Slams — including the US Open in 2022 and Wimbledon twice — but has yet to claim her first major. It is a triumph at the All-England championship that she craves the most.
“Yeah, I mean, it’s not a secret that everybody knows that I want to win Wimbledon,” she said with a smile. “But I think the preparation starts from now, everything from now.
“I think I’m learning a lot of things in my game, my mental game as well, to be prepared for these huge tournaments. But I think I’ll take it one step at a time, one month at a time, and see how it goes and hopefully be arriving healthy to Wimbledon.”
Jabeur highlighted the ongoing development of tennis in the Middle East and the GCC and said that the “dream” would be to have more tournaments like the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open.
At the end of last year, Jabeur faced Aryna Sabalenka in the Riyadh Season Cup for Tennis at the Kingdom Arena, a match the Belarussian won by two sets to one.
The Tunisian praised the event and the appetite of Saudi Arabia’s public for tennis, and said she would be “the first to support” the establishment of a WTA event in the Kingdom in the coming years.
Jabeur on Saturday said she was impressed by the response of Princess Reema bint Bandar, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, to the criticism from Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert of the WTA’s potential deal with the Kingdom.
Princess Reema had criticized the tennis legends for their “outdated stereotypes,” adding that their failure “to acknowledge the great progress women have made in Saudi Arabia denigrates our remarkable journey.”
“Princess Reema’s answer was unbelievable. I think classy, elegant, and every player was impressed with the way she addressed Martina’s and Chris’ letter,” Jabeur told AFP in Abu Dhabi.
Jabeur is proud to be a role model for tennis players in the Middle East, both female and male, and believes perceptions of what can be achieved in the sport are changing.
“I feel like everybody starts to believe that it’s normal to be a professional tennis player from an Arab country,” she told Arab News. “And that’s one thing I always try to inspire others to believe in, that not only other nationalities could make it, but you can dream to be one of the top 100, let’s say in the world.”