Ons Jabeur: Harnessing Experience and Playing Free at Roland Garros 2024

Ons Jabeur, Tunisia’s tennis star, reflects on her journey with resilience and determination as she competes at Roland Garros 2024, aiming to turn past heartbreak into future triumph.

The Tunisian is counting on experience to eventually pay off. She is, however, up against the clock.

Ons Jabeur: Harnessing Experience and Playing Free at Roland Garros 2024
"Yes, I'm rebuilding, but not everything I know or have within me has vanished entirely. It remains in place.—Ons Jabeur. © 2024 Eurasia Sport Images

Sitting on a bed’s edge and witnessing every agonizing minute of her heartbreaking loss to heavy favorite Marketa Vondrousova in last year’s Wimbledon final was the last thing Ons Jabeur wanted to do in the world.

A few weeks ago, Jabeur stated in Madrid, “I really wanted to kill Matt [Critchley, producer of the recent documentary about Jabeur, This Is Me].” Even though Jabeur persisted in objecting, Critchley persisted in pressuring him to watch, believing that it was crucial to the project.

“I’m not sure what makes this good,” she said to him. “You forcing me to watch that makes me want to kill you.” She said to Critchley, “Okay, you got the scene, good job,” after watching the playback. Let’s proceed.

Maybe going over the contest helped her get rid of those bad memories. Here, Jabeur is back, having recovered from his early-season knee troubles at the age of 29. Jabeur established herself as a title contender on Sunday at Roland Garros by defeating rising sensation Clara Tauson 6-4, 6-4.

After her most recent victory, Jabeur, a three-time Grand Slam finalist and a Roland Garros quarterfinalist (despite being hampered by injury) for the first time last year, told reporters that she felt more ready for the task at hand this time.

“I didn’t have enough time last year to get healthy.” Not that I thought I would be ready. However, I’m definitely itching to play this year. My will is really strong.

Both a strong will and a strong nervous system are essential. That has shown to be Jabeur’s largest obstacle in two devastating Wimbledon finals, among other matches. Jabeur has been shaped by bad luck, yet she doesn’t seem to be broken. At Roland Garros, she has only lost one set in four rounds.

“Yes, I am present. I know precisely what to do,” Jabeur remarked, referencing the lessons she learned from the quarterfinal defeat the previous year. She said that she would train differently for the quarterfinal matchup with No. 3 seed Coco Gauff, which looks to be quite challenging. “I believe that my level of maturity has increased from the previous year.”

Jabeur admitted that she had been mentally unwell leading up to the current major. She lost all three of her clay-court matches this year, even though she is still ranked ninth.

Entering the European center of the clay swing, she performed well in the Madrid 1000 (losing in the quarterfinals), but she was unexpectedly defeated by Sofia Kenin in her Rome debut. The Tunisian said that her early-season knee injury has had a greater psychological than physical toll.

Also Read: Sabalenka’s Victory over Emma; Rybakina Defeats Svitolina to Reach Roland Garros 2024 Quaterfinals

Ons Jabeur: Harnessing Experience and Playing Free at Roland Garros 2024
After the Wimbledon final disappointment of last summer, Jabeur had nowhere to run to. © Simon Bruty

“I was practicing a lot and making amazing shots,” she remarked. “I was outlasting other players in practically every practice set. Then then, I found it harder throughout the contests. So I needed to exercise greater patience.
Jabeur’s window of opportunity to overcome her mental challenges is closing.

For every player, the trip to Wimbledon is suddenly becoming more of a sprint. Not many of them have as much on the line as Jabeur, though it might not be wise for her to focus on that. Everyone’s heart went out to her when she lost to Elena Rybakina in the 2022 final due to her freezing up. For a sport that is constantly looking for approval to grow a more diverse player and fan base, she was a heartwarming tale.

Jabeur appeared ready by the end of 2022 to take the lead as one of the new faces of the WTA, having also advanced to the US Open final. She was the perfect candidate: a cheerful fighter with a carefree attitude who Jabeur accepted as the “Minister of Happiness.”

But at Wimbledon last year, a lot of the happiness Jabeur experienced in 2022—and so openly shared with the tennis audience—vanished and was replaced with pathos. She made the final again, then tensed up and staggered on like a deer stuck in headlights.

Retaliation for the previous year’s performance was the furthest thing from the reasonable expectations that fans had for that match. Jabeur is going to have a lot on her plate dealing with that circumstance, so how she performs over the next week might be very important.

After narrowly defeating the always-tough Leylah Fernandez 6-4, 7-6 (5) in the third round, Jabeur declared, “I would say I’m doing two things.” “Yes, I’m rebuilding, but not everything I know or have within me has vanished entirely. It remains in place. Jabeur is counting on experience to take effect eventually. She is, however, up against the clock.

After Fernandez’s victory, she remarked, “My experiences have helped me become the player that I am today, the player that can pull off some matches like this.” “I think this year has been much harder than last year, but I still believe in myself and have patience.”

Jabeur admitted that she mentally rewatches and evaluates matches on some restless evenings. In every match, she reflects on what she could have done or ought to have done differently. She declared, “I’m changing a lot.”

Jabeur would make a significant developmental leap if she won at Roland Garros, and it would also relieve a lot of the pressure she could feel at Wimbledon. That would cheer her up immensely. Who would want to witness a dejected Minister of Happiness?

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