MELBOURNE, Australia – Ons Jabeur bowed out of the Australian Open to Sofia Kenin on Tuesday – but not before making a history run to the quarterfinals.
The 25-year-old became the first Arab woman to reach the second week of a Grand Slam as she defeated Caroline Wozniacki, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, to end the Dane’s career and write a special page for herself in the history of the game.
Jabeur, who had already beaten No.12 seed Johanna Konta in the first round, subsequently took out No.27 seed Wang Qiang, who had eliminated Serena Williams.
Kenin proved a bridge too far as the American triumphed, 6-4, 6-4, but WTA World No.78 Jabeur, the top-ranked African player, departed having made an indelible mark.
“My phone is still going crazy right now,” the first Tunisian, male or female, to reach the second week of a Grand Slam, admitted after the defeat. “I actually spoke to the president of Tunisia, Kais Saied. He wished me good luck. He called me and told me that, even if there is a time distance, even if I am very far away, all of Tunisia is with me. He told me something in Arabic that I can't translate: that my racket was like a sword I’d win with. That was really nice of him.
“I talked to a lot of political figures in Tunisia, and actors, actresses, singers. They called me too.
“Everyone is crazy back home. A lot of people are calling and wishing me good luck. I’m still receiving really good messages that say they are proud.”
Meanwhile, Jabeur, who was one of 12 recipients of a $50,000 International Player Grand Slam Grant financed by the Grand Slam Development Fund in 2017, believes that the last fortnight is confirmation that she is moving in the right direction towards winning a major.
“Even before reaching the quarterfinals, I was looking to myself to win a Grand Slam. But now I think I'm closer. I think I can believe more in my dream,” she said.
“Like I said before, I’ve set up high goals in my mind. I'm ready, I'm going to go all out. I think it could be a good start of the year to really believe in things, and to be ready to win big tournaments.”