DOHA—Ons Jabeur is one of a kind, on the court and off of it. The Tunisian is the highest-ranked Arabic woman ever, and the only African player in the Qatar Total Open draw.
Before 2017, Tunisia's Selima Sfar held the honor of being the only Arabic woman to crack the Top 100. Jabeur has since surpassed Sfar's high of No. 75, recently reaching a career-high of No. 56.
"I’ve been waiting for this ranking since a long time ago, since the juniors," Jabeur told TENNIS.com. "I'm happy that I gained more experiences that I can use in such a big tournament like this in Doha."
The 24-year-old takes her job as a role model for Arabic and African women and children seriously.
"I wish to give them a good example to pursue their dreams," Jabeur said. "I hope I can show them it's not really impossible to be a professional tennis player."
And she takes representing Tunisia very seriously. Before accepting a wild card into Doha, Jabeur was playing in Fed Cup Europe/Africa Zone Group II action in Luxembourg where she fronted a team with two young Tunisian players not ranked on the WTA tour.
Jabeur should have some confidence in her arsenal after reaching the final of her last Premier WTA event, in Moscow in October. With a seven-match run as a qualifier, the crafty all-courter became the first Arabic woman, and first from Africa, to reach a WTA final.
"I'm happy to be the first one and I hope I will not be the last one," Jabeur said.
Her Moscow success was on hard courts, but Jabeur's game is suited to all surfaces. She won the 2011 junior French Open and reached the third round in Paris as a lucky loser in 2017. Last year, she took home her biggest career ITF title to date at a $100,000-event in Manchester, on grass.
Though her hopes are high this week, Jabeur is painfully aware of her track record in Qatar—she has yet to win a match in six attempts. That may all change when she faces Carla Suarez Navarro on Tuesday. Even if she loses, by consistently appearing at the highest level of the sport, Jabeur is proving that a professional career in tennis is a feasible pathway for Arabic women.
"I'm really happy for the chance to play in front of the Arabic crowds," Jabeur said. "I'm so proud. This is not my first year—I'm looking for a victory in Doha. I'm going to do my best to show myself to the world and to make Arabic people proud of me."
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