Ons is in control and dreaming big

 - Alex Sharp

Tunisian world No.6 feels ready to win a maiden Slam after long journey towards owning her career

© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Ons Jabeur was her typical jovial self during her pre-tournament press conference on Friday.

Donning a 'Yalla habibi' t-shirt -- a signature line from the affable Tunisian -- and speaking to the media in three different languages for over 20 minutes, Jabeur was all smiles and cracking jokes throughout.

Having said that, there was a warning signal for her title rivals at Roland-Garros.

“It's nice to be here. I love playing in Paris, I love playing on this kind of clay. Hopefully continuing with the great results,” stated the North African star.

“My main goal is to be in the second week, for sure. I will be happy if I make it to the semi-finals… I'm expecting to go further really and enjoy my time here.”

Being crowned junior champion in Paris back in 2011, alongside consecutive fourth-round showings the past two years, justify Jabeur’s second-week target.

The talk of going further has built to a crescendo following an exemplary road to Roland-Garros.


Four clay tournaments produced three finals. Comeback wins, a maiden WTA 1000 title in Madrid and a tour-leading 17-3 record on clay demonstrates why the Tunisian is preoccupying plenty of the pre-tournament talk.

The first hurdle is far from simple for the 27-year-old. World No.56 Magda Linette took the first set off Jabeur in Paris last summer during their 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 third-round tussle. 

Jabeur is planning to transfer her recent form to Paris to usurp the Pole and keep striding towards a trio of targets. The ambitious world No.6 is hiding nothing.

“I always said it from the beginning of the season that I'm going for three things: I want to be top five; I want to win more titles, and I want to win a Grand Slam. I'm getting there in all those three,” insisted the Arab trailblazer with a grin.

“But I don't want to put the bad pressure on myself that I have to do it this year, otherwise it's going to be never. But I always believe that I can win a Grand Slam, and I feel like this season could be the right one hopefully. I'm putting it out there, you know, just in case.”

En route to the Rome final Jabeur reeled in world No.4 Maria Sakkari from 1-6, 2-5 down, before saving match point to fend off Daria Kasatkina in the last four.

Physically she’s in peak condition, but the work she has been doing with French psychologist Melanie Maillard has also been a key component to her progress.

“Those kind of matches against Maria or Dash gives me a lot of confidence that I should believe more in my mental skills,” reflected the Tunisian.

"I always knew that I could come back and never give up. But it's funny, I always see the player does it and I'm like, ‘How do they do it?’

“It's amazing to see that happening for myself, and I feel like, ‘Okay, you have this in you, and you can do it'. So I feel like now it gives me more confidence to never give up and each point is very, very important.”

Jabeur has built up her career and dazzling catalogue of shots on her own terms, wanting a significant say in the direction of her play.  

“I have had a lot of, not just coaches, but people saying that what I'm doing is not right and I should stop doing drop shots. Just an example,” mused Jabeur. 

“That kind of affected my confidence, my self-esteem a little bit. I was being so hard with myself, because I wasn't getting the result that I wanted.

“And then I started to listen to myself more, I started to believe in myself, in the shots that I was making, in the game style I was making.

“Then everything changed. It took me time. Not just in one day, but I think it was like two, three years. Nowadays, everything is really great, I felt like I needed that coach who can listen to me and not just coach me as the same he coaches another player.

“I was like, ‘Listen. It's my career. I'm controlling this.’ The fact that I did that, I think that's the most thing that I'm proud of."

In the driver's seat both on the court and off it, Jabeur is heading towards those three goals she set for herself pretty fast.