Ons Jabeur has never been shy about describing her ambitions.
“It’s been always great for me that I tell you guys what I want to achieve, I tell you my goals,” she told reporters ahead of the Australian Open. “I put it out there, make a promise to you guys. I hate to break my promises. I see it that way.
“I tell you guys I want to win Grand Slams. OK, you’re expecting me to win. I can’t disappoint you.”
Jabeur’s first major match of 2023 is Tuesday night against Tamara Zidansek in Rod Laver Arena. She’s the No.2 seed behind No.1 Iga Swiatek and she’s itching to vault into the ultimate spot in the Hologic WTA Tour rankings.
She’s already made history as the highest-ranked African and Arab in WTA and ATP Tour history, but there is one prize that has eluded her. Last year, the lock screen photo in her phone was the Venus Rosewater Dish, the sterling silver plate first presented to the Wimbledon women’s champion in 1886.
Jabeur fell just short, losing the final to Elena Rybakina. She reached her second consecutive major final at the US Open, but Swiatek won in a taut second-set tiebreak.
Back in December, when Jabeur was talking with her husband, Karim Kamoun, and the rest of her team about the coming year, she locked in a new photo.
“I’m not sure if I can tell you,” Jabeur said, smiling. “I’ll give you a hint, what I’ll tell you. There is one trophy there. Actually, there is one trophy in my phone and one trophy in my husband’s phone. Different ones.”
Jabeur and Zidansek have played only twice. Jabeur scored the first win in an ITF $50,000 event in Tunis and Zidansek evened the count in the second round of qualifying in Rome 2019. Jabeur’s first Grand Slam quarterfinal came three years ago in Melbourne, where she lost to eventual champion Sofia Kenin.
Day 1 Australian Open results:
- Azarenka embracing life as a part-time soccer mom
- Pegula staying in the zone by hitting with Tiafoe, staying relaxed
- Gauff, Collins advance to Round 2
- Raducanu sets up Gauff clash
- Sakkari, Azarenka, Kvitova, Keys roll into Round 2
- Reigning major champions Swiatek, Rybakina off and running
“Yeah, I may not be as happy as I was in 2020 reaching the quarterfinal,” Jabeur said. “For me, yes, the goal as second in the world is to be in the second week, to make finals. Yes, 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 this two weeks, for sure.”
Here are some other notable day 2 matches:
No.4 Caroline Garcia vs. qualifier Katherine Sebov
No one was hotter than Garcia the second half of last year. She won the WTA Finals in Fort Worth and reached a career-high No.4. She has won 37 matches since June -- a dozen more than any other woman. On the other hand, the Australian Open has been the most difficult major for the Frenchwoman, who has a 12-11 record at the tournament. These two players have never met.
No.5 Aryna Sabalenka vs. Tereza Martincova
Sabalenka is 4-0 this season after winning the title in the Adelaide International 1 event a week ago. These two have never played.
No.8 Daria Kasatkina vs. Varvara Gracheva
Kasatkina advanced to the final of last week’s Adelaide International, losing to Belinda Bencic 6-0, 6-2. Gracheva, 22, is ranked No.98. Kasatkina won the only previous match between them, at the 2021 Melbourne 250.
No.12 Belinda Bencic vs. Viktoriya Tomova
Bencic has won four of five matches this year, including triumphs over Top 10 players Kasatkina and Caroline Garcia. Tomova, a 27-year-old Bulgarian, is ranked No.91. They have never met.
No.14 Beatriz Haddad Maia vs. Nuria Parrizas Diaz
Parrizas Diaz, ranked No.77, won the first two matches between them, but Haddad Maia took the last one, in the first round of last year’s Miami Open. Haddad Maia won her first four matches this year before falling to Paula Badosa -- 7-6 (5), 7-5 -- in the Adelaide International 2 quarterfinals.