ABU DHABI, U.A.E. -- Ons Jabeur hopes her breakthrough 2020 season is only a stepping stone to greater successes in 2021, and the Tunisian No.1 broke down her toughest pre-season work yet and her revised goals in advance of her first match of the year at the Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open.
"The goal for this year, I want to go for titles, enough of quarterfinals!" Jabeur laughed, as she sat down with the international press ahead of her blockbuster first-round clash with Russia's Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, which will take place on Centre Court on Wednesday.
"I want to be in the Top 10," the 26-year-old continued, as she envisioned her hopes for the upcoming season, including a maiden WTA singles title. "I know I have the level, I can be in this ranking. For me, I set up my goals like this, and I know that I can achieve them. I know that I’ve put in the hard work to have these titles, to be able to win more and more, so let’s see."
Jabeur's 2020, replete with milestones, provides evidence that her path is moving in the right direction. Last January, Jabeur blazed a trail at the first major event of the season, becoming the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam singles quarterfinal with a run to the last eight at the Australian Open.
Four additional quarterfinals and a fourth-round showing at Roland Garros, where she was the junior singles champion in 2011, added to her collection of solid results, and she moved into the Top 50 for the first time in her career. Jabeur eventually finished the season at a career-high ranking of World No.31.
"To be honest, 2020 was amazing for me, such an amazing start of the year," Jabeur stated. "When I started the preparation for 2019, to get ready for last year, I was like a different person, a different player on the court, which helped me to be No.31 this year. I think I gained a lot of good experience from 2020, and that will help me to be a much better player on the court for 2021."
"I feel like I am more ready, players know me more, they know what I’m capable of, and I know what I’m capable of, which will help me even more to achieve what I want," Jabeur continued. "I’m going to use the experience I gained from 2020 to really have a great season in 2021."
The atypical 2020 off-season gave Jabeur the chance to ramp her off-season training to the next level before the start of this season. "Being able to finish in mid-October was just enough to recover and enjoy myself before going on court and putting in the hard work," the top Tunisian stated.
"It was different from 2019 because I feel like I’m a different player, I feel like I’m practicing much harder than before, I’m improving as a player," said Jabeur. "Even I’ve noticed the amount of work on the court with fitness was much more than last year, and I’m proud that I’ve been healthy and I’ve been finishing all the good practices. I feel much better and fit on the court."
Jabeur attempted to hone her unorthodox mix of power and finesse to even finer success during the off-season. "I always like to surprise the player I’m playing against," she stated. "I’m practicing a lot of fitness, as I said before, and also tactics. I try to improve my forehand and backhand and use them to really be able to put pressure on the player.
"I know I want to control the game on the court, so that’s what I’m trying to do. Plus, changing [things] up a little bit always helps, the player doesn’t know what you’re going to do on the court, so it’s always an advantage for me."
The postponed 2020 Olympics in Tokyo is still at the forefront of the Tunisian's mind during what she hopes will be an incredible 2021. "I love the Olympics, I love to represent my country," declared Jabeur, who participated in the event in 2012 and 2016. "It’s one of the important tournaments for me, so I’m sure I’ll have to schedule really well, and I will have to see what will happen."
Jabeur's growing triumphs have garnered her increased recognition and sponsorships in her homeland. "It is amazing to be recognized at home," she stated. "Honestly, that motivates me more to work harder, to show that I deserve this kind of sponsorship. Hopefully I can do better this year."
Whatever happens, Jabeur is going to do everything in her power in 2021 as she battles for even greater accomplishments. "Before, I wanted to be at the top level, but I didn’t know how to manage that," she stated. "Now, thank God, I know how to do it. I’ve seen the results. I set up some goals, and I aimed high, really high, and it’s paying off.
"I feel like I have to give it all, I have to go very far in my career. Like I said before, I have professional goals and personal ones, so I always try to remember why I’m here, and try to go as far as I want to."
Main Draw play begins on Wednesday, January 6th. For all the live scores from the Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open, click here.