Ons Jabeur happy to apply the pressure ahead of Australian Open title bid

World No 2 is one of the favourites to win the first Grand Slam of the season, having reached the last two major finals

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Ons Jabeur said the only pressure she is feeling ahead of the Australian Open is what she places on herself as the Tunisian aims to make it third time lucky at the season's first Grand Slam tournament.

Jabeur added more history to her trailblazing career last year when she became the first African or Arab woman to reach a major final, doing so at Wimbledon and again two months later at the US Open. The world No 2 ended up on the losing side on both occasions, going down to Elena Rybankina at the All England Club having won the first set, before top-ranked Iga Swiatek proved too strong on the day at Flushing Meadows.

Now back at Melbourne Park where in 2020 she became the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final, expectations are much higher this time around. In the three years since that breakthrough, Jabeur has climbed to No 2 in the world rankings is comfortably among the best players on the WTA Tour.

"I will try to use that experience from last year [of losing two Grand Slam finals]; it was tough and my goal is to not lose any more finals but to use that to be ready for the next one," Jabeur, 28, said at her pre-tournament press conference.

"I feel like there isn't much pressure on me at this tournament, I'm just going to try to play my game and be there match by match and see what's going to happen."

At the same time, Jabeur is happy to apply that pressure on herself. Through grins and a suggestive nod, Jabeur hinted that she has a photo of the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup ― the trophy awarded to the Australian Open's women's singles champion ― as a screensaver on her phone.

“That's always how I worked. It's been always great for me that I tell you guys what I want to achieve, I tell you my goals,” said Jabeur, who will headline both the inaugural Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships next month.

Ons Jabeur speaks to the media during a press conference ahead of the 2023 Australian Open. Getty

“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.”

It is a demonstration of the progress Jabeur has made since the 2020 milestone that a quarter-final would now be considered a disappointment and that titles are the only target. While the Australian Open trophy is the immediate ultimate goal, the Tunisian insisted she will not look beyond her opponents, starting with Slovenia's Tamara Zidansek in the first round on Tuesday.

"I might not be as happy as I was in 2020 by reaching the quarter-final but it's still a quarter-final," Jabeur said. "I just want to give every round what it deserves. For me the goal, as the No 2 in the world, is to make finals.

"I like this kind of pressure, I put the pressure on myself because sometimes you need that, to be one of the top players. I know a lot of players are hungry, so it's going to be an interesting two weeks for sure."

Jabeur missed last year's Australian Open with a back injury and she appeared affected by a similar issue during the Adelaide International last week. However, she insisted she is fit and raring to go.

"It's actually much, much better," she said. "I just needed a couple of days to be ready. It's the beginning of the season and I'm very happy to be back."

Updated: January 15, 2023, 9:40 AM
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