MADRID, Spain -- Ons Jabeur has endured her share of heartache in tournament finals, but she wasn't going to let it happen again. In a statement-making event, Jabeur showed a lot of toughness throughout, including a terrific 7-5, 0-6, 6-2 victory Saturday against Jessica Pegula to win the Mutua Madrid Open.
Jabeur, 27, became the first Arab and North African player to win a WTA 1000 event. How did she summon her strength in Madrid?
Jabeur, who will rise to No.7 in Monday's rankings, sat down with WTA Insider after the Madrid final to discuss.
WTA Insider: With everything you had to endure and experience over the past two weeks, how much does this feel like a fairytale run for you?
Jabeur: It did, this crazy two weeks. It started with me not adjusting very well to the conditions. Then a few key words, like "digging deep." That I had to do in the first matches and also other matches. "Revenge" is also something that I had to do in three matches.
It's crazy because I knew I'm playing really good and have the level to win any tournament. But sometimes a few things were missing, and it wasn't there. But this tournament didn't feel great at the beginning, and then it was really good. The final, I had to really get ready mentally for it. I had some help from a few animals.
WTA Insider: What do you mean?
Jabeur: I was fooling around, playing with cards. And I was like, "I'm going to try to pick a card each day." It's animal cards and the animal had a message on it. I used it.
When I picked up the card, I say, "OK, what should I do to win tomorrow?" One animal told me to dig deep. One of the animals actually told me that I'm playing a legend. It was Simona [Halep]. It was perfect. One animal told me to use my intelligence to be ready, and one animal told me to take action. So it was the perfect card each time I picked it up.
I actually did this once, but it wasn't with that with animals. It was in Chicago. I had this book, 21 lessons about tennis, and I flipped the book and then opened a random page and it said what tennis could teach you, and then I used that. I think it worked better here in Madrid. Thank you, my animal friends, for helping me.
I like to get motivation from outside the courts and my team has been helpful a lot with me. Issam and Kareem and especially Melanie [Maillard, Jabeur's sports psychologist] this week. It's amazing to have her and hopefully she will be back with me for more tournaments.
WTA Insider: How much of a difference does it make to have your sports psychologist with you at a tournament?
Jabeur: I think the fact she's present with me physically helps a lot. We managed to put some sessions together. I feel like virtual doesn't help as much as when someone is physically with you. The fact that she could see me playing live and she could see my practices, that helps her get a better idea of what I'm doing. She calms me down when she's here and she can see how stressed I was. She saw what I did for those two weeks. She can work with that to help me more.
I'm not usually easy to open, but when she's here it's easier to open up and talk to her. Picking up the phone, it's always difficult to do that. But I always believed in Melanie, always believed that she could help me. We've been working together for a long time now. I could see the progress that we did.
WTA Insider: You came into this tournament 1-4 in finals. You were 0-4 in deciding sets in finals. After winning the first set, you found yourselves in a decider once again. How did you manage that and not let history repeat itself?
Jabeur: It was tough coming to this match. I knew Jess would play really well. I was hoping that she would be a little bit stressed. But she was showing great tennis from the beginning. I had my opportunities to break her from the beginning. And then I was 1-4 in the first set. But for me, in my head, it was just one break. I knew I was playing good, I just I had to get that point somehow.
After winning the first set, I thought, "OK, you have to close it right now." We've seen this scenario so many times and I think the first game kind of played with my head because I had my opportunity to break her, but then it wasn't going my way. She was playing great and I really felt like crying in the second set because I was like, "This is not happening, this cannot be happening again."
And the third set, I just tried to change the momentum. I tried to play each point, each game and focus. I am really happy and relieved that I got the win because honestly, I don't think my heart could support another disappointment.
WTA Insider: What does this Madrid title mean to you?
Jabeur: For me, the most significant thing is playing against Simona, I had to go through this step, through this test to be able to achieve my dreams. I want to be in the Top 5. I want to win Grand Slams. To be able to win Grand Slams I think I have to go through a final like this, the second biggest final after a Grand Slam. I cannot escape not doing this anymore.
Like I said, it was about digging deep in this tournament and knowing what I'm worth in some matches. To be able to challenge myself as well, because this is a challenge between myself. The trophy is amazing, but for me, the most important thing is that I had to do this to be able to win a Grand Slam one day.
WTA Insider: How does Ons Jabeur celebrate the biggest win of her career?
Jabeur: I'm going to pack [laughs]. I don't have much time. I probably will see my team and just enjoy a little bit, but I really have to go pack. I have a flight tomorrow to Rome.
But I'm just going to give myself a little bit of time to enjoy this title. It's important. I know it's very important. Maybe I'll go with my husband to have a nice dinner in Rome. He's inviting, obviously [laughs]. But it's a romantic city. So we will enjoy it a little bit there.