Written by Staff Writer
Ons Jabeur became the first Arab woman to break into the top 10 of the WTA rankings on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old Tunisian, who made her pro debut in 2014, is now ranked number nine, behind Russian Maria Sharapova. She has been steadily climbing the rankings since September 2014, when she was ranked in the top 20 in the world.
It is the latest in a string of records achieved by the Tunisian, who was named Rookie of the Year at the ITF Tour in 2016.
“I’m very happy and very proud. I can’t describe it. My phone is going crazy, and I never have so many texts, calls, Facebook messages and tweets,” Ons Jabeur told CNN.
“You can see I’m really proud of myself. I think I am very confident and I think I have this strong backbone. I think the atmosphere makes me more confident.”
Born in Tunisia, Jabeur began her tennis career in her homeland and moved to Britain in 2009 when she was 17 years old. In 2014, she reached a career-high singles ranking of 20.
Like some other female athletes in the Middle East, Jabeur was born to parents who competed in international sports at the junior level, but do not have a direct connection to their sports.
“Everything is in my blood,” Jabeur told CNN. “I live this sport, I live playing, I know the rules, I know the score and what goes on. When I’m on the court, all I feel is support from my family, my friends, my team, and all my spectators and fans.”
“They always say: ‘Ons, you are going to do it, you’re going to become a superstar,’” Jabeur’s coach Afnan Jamal said. “This is the expectation I’ve had since I first met Ons.”
Jabeur credits her brother Tala, who was also born in Tunisia, for keeping her motivated in the face of adversity.
“I’ve had a lot of hardship in my life and a lot of issues, so my brother is like a source of strength for me. He is very tough, he gets mad at me, he will punch me — but at the same time he really likes me a lot.”
“I think most people in my family have been killed, so my brother is not really my family,” Jabeur added. “Most of my family is in jail, in prison, so my brother is a new family for me.”