ROME, Italy -- Before the final of the Internazionali BNL d'Italia, World No.7 Ons Jabeur was asked about putting her 11-match win streak up against No.1 Iga Swiatek's 27-match streak.
"Tomorrow the plane will crash and there is only one parachute," Jabeur said, laughing. "I hope I take it."
In the end, Swiatek was unstoppable again. The 20-year-old's streak remained intact after a 6-2, 6-2 win over Jabeur in Sunday's final.
Jabeur: "I felt like I was trying my best to make her visit all the corners of the court, but she was already ready for that.— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) May 15, 2022
“She played unbelievable in the important points. That's what makes Iga Iga, you know.”#ibi22 https://t.co/2zWi6whZvG
Jabeur has suffered tough losses in finals in the past, but the Madrid champion was in good spirits and positivity after losing out on a second consecutive WTA 1000 title. En route to the final, she rallied from 6-1, 5-2 to defeat No.4 Maria Sakkari in the quarterfinals and saved a match point to upend Daria Kasatkina in the semifinals.
There was no reason to self-flagellate after losing to the hottest player on tour, especially considering Jabeur came into Rome having never won a match here.
Besides, there are bigger targets on the horizon.
"Pretty happy with the level I played with," Jabeur said. "I will just be positive with myself and try to recover in time for the French Open. It's my main goal, to be honest with you."
Jabeur is the only player to make three finals on clay this season, winning Madrid and coming up short to Belinda Bencic in Charleston and Swiatek in Rome. She leads the tour in match-wins on clay, with 17 across Charleston, Stuttgart, Madrid and Rome. As a former junior Roland Garros champion, she'll be a short-list favorite for the title in Paris.
"It helps me a lot confidence-wise, expectation-wise," Jabeur said. "It helps me be tougher with myself. I need to be in the second week. I need to go above the other results I did in Grand Slams. Maybe [it affects] other players, how they will look at me."
Growing up in Tunisia, Jabeur said she thought Roland Garros was the only Slam that existed. When she won the 2011 girls' title she became the first Arab to win a junior Roland Garros title since 1964.
When she made the third round of the senior event in 2017, she became the first Arab player to reach the third round of a Slam. Last fall, she became the first Arab player to rank in the Top 10 on either the Hologic WTA Tour or ATP Tour. Now she returns to her favorite Slam on the cusp of a Top 5 debut.
"I enjoy Roland Garros a lot," she said. "I have great memories with that Grand Slam. Honestly, I didn't think about being the favorite to go there and people expecting me to do things. But it's for sure a good pressure for me. I hope I will be ready for it."
Jabeur said she will take the lessons she learned in Rome, particularly against Swiatek, into Paris. She second-guessed herself tactically after the match, wondering if she should have played more aggressively through the middle of the court. Despite the heavy score line, Jabeur had her chances in the match, most notably a triple-break point chance at 4-2 in the second set.
"Iga, mentally she was really good," Jabeur said. "She was always aggressive, always there. No matter what the score is, always going forward, putting pressure on the other player. That I think is very important. No matter what the score is, you always have to go forward.
"I noticed so many players with more experience, they play really well on the important points. I think that's what makes the difference between players in the Top 10 and players from Top 100.
"Iga is the No.1 for a reason. She's really the leader here on tour. I personally have a lot to learn from her. Let's see. Hopefully we'll have another match soon."