Tunisian trailblazer Ons Jabeur starts her Olympic Games campaign hoping to build on what has already been a historic season on the tennis court.
Jabeur faces Spain's Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain in her opening match at Ariake Tennis Park, with Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova a potential second-round opponent.
Jabeur just enjoyed a superb tournament at Wimbledon where she defeated three successive Grand Slam champions — in Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Iga Swiatek — to become the first Arab woman, and first Tunisian player, to reach the last-eight at the All England Club.
Her run was ended by Aryna Sabalenka in the quarter-finals but the 26-year-old had already enjoyed a breakthrough season that saw her win her first WTA Tour title at the Birmingham Classic before Wimbledon — another historic milestone as the first Arab woman to win a top-tier tournament.
Jabeur broke into the top 50 last year following her run to the last eight of the Australian Open, where she became the first Arab woman to reach the quarter-finals of a major in the Open era.
She will arrive in Japan a much improved player from the one who suffered first-round exits in 2012 and 2016.
"I've been preparing for the Olympic Games since Roland Garros [in June]," Jabeur, ranked a career- high 23rd, told AFP from her training base in Tunis.
“I have to stay focused, especially since I know lots of Tunisians expect the best from me at the Games against the best players, in matches that will be very difficult.
“I'm ready for this challenge. The gold medal in Tokyo is my dream. What I am most proud of is representing Tunisia.
“The Grand Slams are important, but the Olympics are something special, and I say to Tunisians that I'm going to give everything on the court for you.
“My position in the tennis world is not the same as other players because I'm representing Tunisia, Arabs and Africa at the same time, and it's something of which I'm very proud.
“There are lots of players who come from France, Australia, the United States, and I'm proud to represent an entire nation on my own.”
And after a season of real progress, Jabeur still has plenty goals still to achieve. “My dream since childhood is to win titles in the big competitions, and I know very well that I'm not far off,” said Jabeur, whose husband Karim Kamoun is also her fitness trainer.
“I always say nothing is impossible, you have to work, rely on yourself and have confidence in your abilities.
“During my career, plenty have doubted my ability to ever reach this level, but my belief in myself and my work have allowed me to move forward.”
Jabeur has just auctioned off one of her tennis racquets from her Wimbledon campaign to raise funds to help her native Tunisia in the fight against Covid-19.
“It was my duty to help my country when it needs it. We were able to collect 75,000 dinars [around $27,000] to buy equipment for the hospitals that lack it,” she said.