MELBOURNE, Australia -- The last time we saw Ons Jabeur she was struggling with her lower back in a 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 loss to 18-year-old Czech qualifier Linda Noskova at the Adelaide International 1. 

But after a few days of rest and training, the World No.2 set aside any doubts that she would be ready to take the court for her first match on Tuesday at the Australian Open.

"It's actually much, much better," Jabeur told reporters at Media Day at the Australian Open. "I just needed a couple days to just be ready. It's the beginning of the season, but also kind of the last season somehow. 

"I've been training really well. Definitely enjoying the courts here."

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A finalist at back-to-back majors at Wimbledon and the US Open, Jabeur said the goals for the fortnight were simple. 

"For me, the goal as second in the world is to be in the second week, to make finals," she said. "I like this kind of pressure. I'm going to put more pressure on myself because I feel like sometimes you just need that to be one of the top players.

"I know a lot of players are hungry to do more. It's going to be very interesting these two weeks, for sure."

Jabeur believes the field of contenders is not as vast as the tour might have seen in the past years. A subset of players, from No.1 Iga Swiatek to No.3 Jessica Pegula and WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia have begun to separate themselves from the pack. And as her 2022 season more than proved, Jabeur is right there in the mix at Melbourne Park, where she made the quarterfinal in 2020. 

"It's not that wide open, like so many people think," Jabeur said. "You can have five players, and I think five of them could win this Slam, for sure.

"Five is not that open, right?"

Jabeur will open her tournament on Tuesday against Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek. 

"There's a joke that my mom has. She is like, 'You don't have that grown woman strength yet. You'll know when you get it.'"

- Coco Gauff

Coco Gauff spent her pre-season focusing on her transition game. She translated that work seamlessly into her first week of the season, where she won her third title by making pointed, repeated plays at the net. Now comes the challenge of a different transition, graduating from contender to champion. 

Before this year, the 18-year-old American had typically been slow out of the blocks, typically hitting her stride by the spring and summer. But if Auckland is any indicator, the World No.7 looks primed to break those old habits.

"I think the main thing is just accepting the circumstances," Gauff told reporters. "You never know how you're going to feel in these first couple matches. You don't know what you're going to get. I think you just have to accept it.

"I'm just hoping to see myself on the court, being present in the moment, not looking too far in the future. I think I've done a good job of that last week in Auckland. I'm hoping to do that here, just enjoying the present and not looking too far in the past or too far in the future."

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2023 Auckland

One could understand the challenges for a player like Gauff, so talented and gifted and accomplished already, to not look too far ahead. For as good as she already is - still the youngest player in the Top 50 - Gauff is quick to acknowledge her best is yet to come. 

"I was thinking about that the other day, and that's what I kind of feel like I put a little bit less pressure on myself," Gauff said. "I've noticed from 15, when I started, to now, I realize physically I'm at a much different level than I was at 15. I think I'm just continuing to get stronger.

"There's a joke that my mom has. She is like, 'You don't have that grown woman strength yet. You'll know when you get it.'

"I can't put a percent on it, but I know the best is yet to come for me. I think that's just looking at other players, when they're winning most of their titles. So I do think I have a way to go.

"I'm not mature yet. I guess I'm not as mature as other players are. That's going to come with life on earth, not how many years you are on tour."

Gauff is set to play her opening match against the Czech Republic's Katerina Siniakova on Monday.