Ons Jabeur: The rising tennis star from Tunisia

Written by Staff Writer

Ons Jabeur is the first Arab tennis player to climb to the top 10 of the WTA rankings. The 23-year-old was ranked No. 86 in April, but rocketed up to No. 7 on Monday

“It has been a great past month for me personally,” she told CNN. “It’s really been a whirlwind and it’s been amazing.”

Jabeur’s incredible rise through the rankings has been aided by the takeover of Venus Williams’ seeding for Wimbledon — a stunning development that could have knock-on effects in the rest of the rankings.

“Right now we all want Venus (Williams) to win at Wimbledon,” she says. “As a matter of fact, I know that all the players wish she was higher in the rankings than where she is.”

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Jabeur beat all-time top ranked Caroline Wozniacki in Eastbourne last week to become the first Arab woman to enter the top 10 of the WTA rankings. In doing so, the Tunisian becomes the first Arab woman in history to have cracked the world’s top 10.

Winning the 10-woman World Team Tennis in Sydney on Sunday saw her rise to No. 7 in the world rankings. It was her first title since London in 2015.

“You do get nervous, but after a point (of play) you just focus and play your game,” Jabeur said about her nerves before the Sydney match. “It felt so good to win it.”

Jabeur: ‘I’m a human being first’

Jabeur revealed she grew up idolizing Wozniacki.

“I played against her in junior internationals when I was 12,” Jabeur said. “She is the only top 10 player who is also from a developing country. I think it’s really hard because the sports fans from there support tennis a little bit differently to the others.”

To turn her life around, Jabeur first decided to turn to tennis as a child. She captained Tunisia’s junior Davis Cup team before going on to claim two WTA titles and a quarter-final ranking in 2015.

Jabeur said when she first started the decision to turn to tennis was a radical one, due to the fact her family was struggling economically.

“Our lives weren’t going well really — my family didn’t have much money to do that kind of (tradition),” she said. “But somehow I just tried to use it.”

In 2015, when she arrived at Wimbledon, Jabeur was the subject of attention from a number of big-name players as she displayed her fighting qualities in a first-round match against world No. 26 Agnieszka Radwanska.

“Right now tennis has changed a lot,” Jabeur said. “I don’t know if I am the first, but I’m a part of it — something I’m proud of.”

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