Ons Jabeur has set her targets high for the 2021 season as the Tunisian star gets her campaign underway at the inaugural Abu Dhabi WTA Women’s Tennis Open.
Jabeur, 26, enjoyed a breakthrough 2020, reaching the Australian Open quarter-finals – the first woman from an Arab country to make the last-eight of a Grand Slam – and achieved a career high No 31 in the WTA rankings.
But as she returns to competitive action this week at the Zayed Sports City International Tennis Centre, Jabeur is expecting much more from herself in the months ahead.
"I want to go for titles – I’ve had enough of quarter-finals – and I want to get into the top 10," she said. "I know I have the level to be at this ranking and I know I can achieve this. I have put in the hard work needed to reach these goals and win more and more."
Jabeur's lofty ambitions are a result of the hards yards she's been putting in behind the scenes.
A player of unquestionable talent, the Tunisian would be the first to admit that her previous approaches to fulfilling her potential have fallen short of what's required to succeed in the ultra-competitive world of women's tennis.
"I feel like I’m a different player, I’m practicing much harder than before and I’m improving a lot," she said. "I even noticed the amount of work I put in with fitness has been much better.
"Before, I wanted to be at the top level but didn’t know how to manage that. Now I know how to do it. I’ve seen the results, I’ve set up some goals, and I aimed really high and it’s paying off.
"Sometimes it’s tough to wake up and be motivated every day, I'll be honest, but I always try to find the motivation. I feel like I have to give it all and aim to go very far in my career."
Seeded 15th in Abu Dhabi this week, Jabeur faces a stern test in the first round against world No 39 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova – another player likely tired of quarter-finals having reached the last eight in all four Grand Slams.
Their match-up exemplifies the competitiveness of the field in the UAE capital, with four of the world's top 10 competing in the first tournament of the season: Australian Open champion and fourth-ranked Sofia Kenin, world No 5 Elina Svitolina, and sixth-ranked Karolina Pliskova.
Svitolina, 26, knows better than most what it takes to win in the UAE having twice won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. The Ukrainian has also used Abu Dhabi as a pre-season base in the past.
"The last time I was here was four years ago. I trained here three times in a row during the off-season, so it's a place I've spent lots of hours on the court and I know the Centre Court pretty well," she said. "It's a good feeling to be back where I used to train."