Tunisia's Ons Jabeur made more history. With her run to the Indian Wells semifinals, she officially made her Top 10 debut Monday, becoming the first Arab player to reach this milestone on either the WTA or ATP Tour. She came into the BNP Paribas Open ranked No.14.
Jabeur's 7-5, 6-3 win against Estonia's Anett Kontaveit was her tour-leading 48th win of the season. She also booked a spot in a WTA 1000-level event for the first time in her career. Jabeur has enjoyed an outstanding 2021 campaign, winning her first championship on the grass in Birmingham to become the first Arab woman to win a WTA title. She also made her first Wimbledon quarterfinal and reached two additional finals, in Chicago and Charleston 250. Jabeur has also notched five Top 10 wins this season.
Jabeur now has a chance to become the first Arab woman to qualify for the Akron WTA Finals Guadalajara. She came into Indian Wells at No.9 on the Porsche Race to the WTA Finals Leaderboard, and Monday she overtook Naomi Osaka for the final qualifying position, at No.8.
Here's what Jabeur told reporters after reaching the semifinals:
On her overall feelings after securing her Top 10 debut:
"This is a dream coming true. This is something that I've been wanting. I always wanted to get there, to be No.1 in the world.
"Top 10, I know, is the beginning. I know I deserve this place for a long time since I was playing well. But I want to prove that I deserve to be here, I deserve to be one of the Top 10 players. There are a lot of things that I need to improve.
"I'm very happy, a lot of emotions right now, but I'm still in competition so I'm trying to calm down and not overthink about Top 10. Probably will celebrate after the tournament.
"I just believed in myself, I worked hard, and this is just the beginning of great things."
On her mindset coming into the tournament, knowing what was potentially at stake:
"I came here stressed a lot with the Race. I really didn't look much at the ranking, but I knew I was kind of not far.
"I was talking to my mental coach and I told her, This is too much. But I told her, I need to do this, I need to go through this to be able to win a Grand Slam one day. To go and win a Grand Slam, you need to take this step.
"I am trying to take these steps. I'm trying so hard to calm myself down and handle all this stress because I want to be a Grand Slam champion. If I want to do that, then I need to go through this. Hopefully I'll go through this without having a heart attack," she said, laughing.
On being a trailblazer for Tunisia and the difficulties she's faced:
"It is much different to come from my country than being American or French or Australian. They have not just the example of seeing players playing in front of you, more tennis clubs, even more tournaments, let's say.
"I've been rejected by sponsors because of where I come from, which is so not fair. I didn't understand why before. I accepted it. I dealt with it. I am really proud of the person I became today, just not relying on others.
"Everybody had probably a difficult career. I'm not saying I have the most difficult one. I just wanted to really do this. It's my dream. I didn't want to depend on a sponsor or someone who doesn't even care about tennis or doesn't even care about sport in general. It gave me the courage to continue and achieve my goals, and I'm in Top 10 today."
On the pride she takes in her team, comprised of Tunisian coach Issam Jellali and husband Karim Kamoun:
"Honestly, I had to step up and say something about my team because we've been attacked a lot. Maybe you guys don't know, but mostly maybe in Tunisia, maybe a little bit outside.
"We are doing hard work. It's really painful to see people talking without knowing what's going on, all the sacrifices we are doing. It's not fair to them or me. If someone attacks my family, I become very bad. I don't like it.
"Issam is such an amazing coach. He proved that with me. He's someone that understands me well. We are working so hard, communicating. He's trying to know me. This is not easy. I really don't care what he did in the past, what player he worked with. I don't really care. I care about what he's doing with me. I can have the best coach that has the best CV ever in the world and he will not do anything with me because maybe he doesn't understand me or doesn't understand my tennis.
"Having my husband as a fitness coach, emotions aside, listen, I'm improving physically. I am the player that played a lot of matches, most matches on tour, on WTA. Thank God I'm doing well.
"What I got to say is I'm not going to change a winning team. We are winning. We are doing well. We are making mistakes, maybe. We are learning. I am finally finding my joy, kind of the goals I've been waiting for for a long time."
On how she's handled the week so far:
"I have never been in this situation. I never played this long. Never been in Top 10 before. It's a lot of things happening at the same time. This is what I've worked for, this is what I want to believe, to achieve. A lot of things at the same time.
"I finally, with maturity and enough experience, am accepting this kind of pressure is a privilege. It's a pleasure to have it. When you're young, you don't know. You get too stressed, think about the stress. But it's a good thing.
"I'm learning every day, trying to manage. It's not easy. Unfortunately some people, they don't understand it's not easy. I'm trying my best. I'm trying to play my game, have fun, really take pressure as a pleasure on court."
Social media reaction
Congratulations to @Ons_Jabeur, who has moved on to the semifinals @BNPPARIBASOPEN.— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) October 15, 2021
Her win tonight is historic, as she becomes the first Arab person to break into the top 10. 👏#TennisParadise https://t.co/J4MEWgQRbo
Well done, Ons!!!— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) October 13, 2021
Making history is always special:) https://t.co/rvyz24NOHM
To my friend, @Ons_Jabeur— mayar sherif (@MayarSherif_1) October 16, 2021
Such an inspiration pushing Arab & African tennis players to reach what seemed unreachable! congratulations for entering the top 10 list
مبروك البطلة أنس جابر علي دخول قائمة العشرة الأوائل عالميا في تنس السيدات، ومبروك لأهل تونس الخضراء 🇹🇳 ولكل العرب pic.twitter.com/XVGcs4PQdX
How amazing are you my friend ❤️ so proud https://t.co/rSMTPBGqKE— Sania Mirza (@MirzaSania) October 14, 2021
That's my girl! Come Oooooonnnsssss https://t.co/DLKaeUQgXB— Nicole Melichar-Martinez (@nicole_melichar) October 14, 2021