Ons Jabeur in 2021: From trailblazer to history-maker
Ons Jabeur has been a trailblazer all her life but in 2021 she took things to a new level, becoming the firs Arab player to win a WTA Tour title and the first Arab player – woman or man – to be ranked in the top 10
The year of firsts. Ons Jabeur from Tunisia wrote her name into the history books in 2021. She became the first Arab woman to win a title on the WTA Tour and the first Arab player ever to break into the world’s top 10. An historic year. At the end of 2019, Jabeur was ranked 77th in the world. One title and two Grand Slam quarter-finals later, she reached No 10.
Jabeur’s ranking at end of 2020: 31
Jabeur’s ranking at end of 2021: 10
Jabeur’s win-loss record in 2021: 48-19
Jabueur’s titles in 2021: 1
JABEUR’S BEST PERFORMANCE: HER TITLE WIN IN BIRMINGHAM
The third time was the charm for Ons Jabeur. After losing in two previous finals on the WTA Tour (Moscow 2018 and last April in Charleston), the Tunisian won the first title of her career on the grass courts of Birmingham, in June, beating Russian Daria Kasatkina (7-5, 6-4) to become the first Arab woman to win a title on the circuit.
The Tunisian won the first set by breaking the world No 35 three times and then relaxed in the second set, racing to a 4-0 lead, a big enough advantage to ensure that Kasatkina could not come back. At the time, Jabeur was ranked No 24, then her career-best. But her season was far from over.
JABEUR’S BEST GRAND SLAM RESULT: WIMBLEDON QUARTER-FINAL
Jabeur is not yet a Grand Slam champion but she has turned a corner in the last two years. After reaching her first quarter-final at the Australian Open in 2020, she repeated that performance at Wimbledon this year.
She came into the tournament on a roll, two weeks after her first title in Birmingham. Jabeur eliminated Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza, and then world No 9 Iga Swiatek in the round of 16, recovering from the loss of the first set to win 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, ranked 9th in the world.
In the quarter-finals, the Tunisian was unable to cope with the power of Aryna Sabalenka and went down 6-4, 6-3, in a match in which she never quite managed to put her game together. Sabalenka played “the match of her life,” Jabeur said. “She deserves her victory. I’m very positive about the future.” Her future would be written four months later, in Indian Wells.
JABEUR’S BEST MOMENT: BECOMING FIRST ARAB PLAYER IN TOP 10
History was made at the Indian Wells Masters 1000 in October. By beating Anett Kontaveit in the quarter-finals (7-5, 6-3), Jabeur became, at 27, the first Arab player ever to enter the world’s top 10. After her semi-final loss to Paula Badosa (6-3, 6-3), the Tunisian was ranked a career-high No 7.
“It’s a dream come true. It’s only the beginning”Ons Jabeur
“I deserve to be in this place,” Jabeur said. “But I want to prove that I deserve to be in the top 10. There are still a lot of things I need to improve. I am very happy. There’s a lot of emotion…”
JABEUR’S “WORST” MOMENT OF 2021: JUST MISSING OUT ON QUALIFYING FOR WTA FINALS
Jabeur missed the year-end WTA Finals by a whisker. Having been Anett Kontaveit’s tormentor in the quarter-finals of Indian Wells, the Tunisian was overtaken right at the end by the Estonian, who was crowned twice in a fortnight in October (Moscow and Cluj), and pipped her to the post. to take the eighth and last place in the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.
“I don’t know what to say, I really thought Ons was going to the Masters,” said Kontaveit after her qualification. “I would have been very happy for her because she deserved to qualify. She is a wonderful girl. I’ve lost to her a few times.”
Jabeur could have travelled to Mexico as an alternate, ready to stand in if someone got injured, but she decided to have some treatment on an elbow injury of her own. “I need more time to recover and prepare for next season,” she said. “I am super proud of achieving my goal and my best ranking in the world: 7!”
JABEUR OFF-COURT: SHE WANTS TO “SET AN EXAMPLE”
After Jabeur won her first title in Birmingham in June, she described wanting to “inspire other Arab and Tunisian players.” She succeeded. Jabeur will forever be remembered as the first woman of North African origin to reach the world’s top 10.
“I needed to earn the respect of others. It was even more difficult for me”Ons Jabeur
“It’s very important for me,” she said, after reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon. “I have often seen or read things about where I come from. I needed to earn the respect of others. It was even more difficult for me than for others. I worked hard to earn that respect. I just want to set an example for many generations in the Maghreb, in my country and in Africa, and show that it is not impossible, that we can do it. I have been trying to carry this message for a very long time. When someone tells me that I inspire them, it motivates me even more to train, and to set an example.”
JABEUR By Jabeur : “VERY PROUD”
After forfeiting her place as alternate at the year-end WTA Finals, Jabeur reflected on her end of season on social media, saying in French:
“I am very proud. Very proud to have reached the best ranking of my career, the seventh place. Thank you all so much for your support!”
“I’m not saying that my career is more complicated than others but I had to achieve my dream without any outside help.”Ons Jabeur
A few weeks earlier, she said she was “very proud of the person” she has become. I’m not saying that my career is more complicated than others, but I had to achieve my dream without any outside help,” she continued. This gave me the courage to continue and achieve my goals. Today, I am one of the top ten players in the world.”
TENNIS MAJORS’ VIEW: TIME TO IMPROVE IN GRAND SLAMS
Beyond making history this year, Ons Jabeur has deserved to reach the world’s top 10 for two years. She only broke into the top 100 in 2017 and here, four years on, she is one of the best. This status is laudable. But it is also a burden. She must now do better in Grand Slams. The world No 10 has “only” twice reached the quarter-finals of a Major. At 27, she can still shine in 2022.