Tuesday, January 20, 2015

AUSTRALIAN OPEN: Tunisia's Ons Jabeur is "ready to fly"

Ons Jabeur feels she is finally ready to fulfil her potential as she gets ready to play in her first career Australian Open main draw.

The Tunisian, currently ranked No143, is the highest-ranked Arab in the world and the only Arab in the women’s field at Melbourne Park.

She earned her spot in the main draw after storming through her three qualifying rounds without dropping a set.

Jabeur, who won Roland Garros as a junior in 2011, has been tipped by many to rise in the WTA ranks but is yet to make her mark on the senior stage.

Melbourne will be her second major main draw appearance, having qualified for the US Open last August before falling to Andrea Petkovic in three sets.

Jabeur joined the Mouratoglou Academy - owned by Serena Williams’ coach Patrick Mouratoglou - in Paris six months ago and had her first proper preseason training last month, where she prepared for her assault on 2015.

She flew through her Australian Open qualifying rounds and believes she is braced for a good opening match against ex-world No2 Vera Zvonareva on Tuesday.

Those qualifying matches were good for me,” the 20-year-old said. “I played really good.

I feel like I am ready. I had a very good preseason so I am ready to fly.

I’m really excited to play my second grand slam main draw.”

Jabeur, who previously had an all-Tunisian team, explains how she never had the chance to prepare for a season in a proper professional way.

I never had a preseason (training block) before, this was my first one,” she says.

I did a lot of physical preparation and played a lot of tennis. Corrected some technique and improved a lot of things.

I am ready now to join the biggest players and be one of the top-50, why not? I can do it.”

On facing Zvonareva, the former Wimbledon runner-up whose ranking has plummeted to 203 due to a string of injuries, Jabeur said: “I will give my best, focus on my game and I am self-confident. Insha’Allah I can do it.”

Jabeur will be looking to join her fellow Tunisian Malek Jaziri in the second round after the world No75, who turned 31 on Tuesday, defeated Kazakhstan's Mikhail Kukushkin 6-2, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (3) on opening day of the Australian Open.

Jaziri  is through to the second round of a grand slam for the fourth time in his career and will face Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin in the last 64 on Wednesday.

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