Ons Jabeur said it was a dream to compete at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship after the Tunisian world No 10 became the first Arab player to win at the pre-season tournament in Abu Dhabi.
Jabeur defeated Switzerland's Olympic champion Belinda Bencic in a third set championship tie-break 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 in an entertaining match on Thursday night. The 27-year-old Tunisian was a late arrival for MWTC after replacing US Open champion Emma Raducanu, who was forced to withdraw after testing positive for Covid-19 just days before the tournament.
"It was a crazy trip to come here, but as I said before, it was always a dream for me to come and play here at Mubadala," said Jabeur, who told The National the day before MWTC that she had flown from Kuwait to Tunisia only to hop straight back on a plane to come to Abu Dhabi.
"It's amazing to be here in Abu Dhabi; to be here in an Arab country, representing Tunisia, representing the Arab world. I'm so glad I had this opportunity, so I’m really grateful for that."
On her performance against Bencic, Jabeur said she was pleased with how well she played considering it was her first match since October.
"I hadn’t played since Moscow and it feels like forever, so it was good to play some points and felt like a real match," she said. "Belinda plays really well so it was tough at certain times."
Jabeur is accustomed to creating new milestones for Arab tennis. After becoming the first Arab female player to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final at the 2020 Australian Open, Jabeur emulated her feat at Wimbledon in July - two weeks after becoming the first Arab player to win a WTA Tour title.
The world No 10, who reached a career-high No 7 last month, is the highest-ranked Arab player, female or male, in tennis history. But Jabeur insisted she still has plenty more to achieve in the game.
"I like challenges and saying goals out loud," she said. "I want to keep breaking records and keep making history; giving more of an example for athletes out there. I want to continue my journey and win more titles, prove to myself that I deserve a spot in the top 10. I’m very ambitious for next year."