20 Jun 2017

GSDF Player Grant gives Jabeur wings

News Article

By Jamie Renton

Photo: Dave ShoplandOns Jabeur (TUN)

When Ons Jabeur was named amongst the 12 recipients of a $50,000 International Player Grand Slam® Grant financed by the Grand Slam Development Fund in May, it was hoped that the financial boost would allow her to make her mark in the professional game.

Few, though, might have predicted she would leave such a discernible footprint in the Roland Garros clay less than a month later.

Having failed to qualify in 10 of her 12 previous appearances at the Grand Slams, and fallen in the first round in her only main draw appearances at the 2014 US Open and the 2015 Australian Open, Jabeur might have been forgiven for being satisfied with her lot after gaining entry into this year’s Roland Garros as a lucky loser.

But the 22-year-old Tunisian backed up her two wins in qualifying with straight sets victories over Ana Bogdan and world No. 7 Dominika Cibulkova – her first Top 10 triumph – during a career-best run to the third round in Paris. And Jabeur believes that it is the support from the Grand Slam Development Fund’s latest initiative, allowing her to play without the burden of financial worries, that has played a significant part in her recent success.

“It’s one of the reasons why I’m here today, why I’m winning matches. It’s because I’m mentally relaxed, I’m just thinking about tennis and I’m not thinking about paying the staff and stuff,” Jabeur said.

“I’ve got to say, for all the players, it’s really important to be as relaxed as possible. I really want to thank the [Grand Slams] for this opportunity, the way they believed in me. They gave me the chance to achieve my goals. It means a lot to me and I think I’m proving them right for the choice they made. I’m working harder every day to prove that I deserve this. Hopefully I'll continue even better than this…”

Jabeur has received support from the Grand Slam Development Fund on several occasions to develop her tennis career. She was a part of the ITF/GSDF African 14 and Under Team to Europe in 2008, and received four grants to play junior events through 2009-2011, and another to play women’s circuit events in 2013.

The faith in her ability was well placed. Back in 2011, she became the first North African woman to win a Grand Slam tournament in any category by defeating Monica Puig in the girls’ final at Roland Garros. Jabeur has since gone on to become a two-time Olympian, competing for Tunisia at both London 2012 and Rio 2016, and put together a 23-7 win-loss record in Fed Cup by BNP Paribas.

But might she have achieved the success she has over the past month, rising to a career-high ranking of No. 104 in early June, had it not been for the latest – and by far the biggest – Grand Slam Development Fund grant to come her way?

“It would be hard, I’ve got to say, it would be very, very hard,” Jabeur said. “I was very, very happy when they called me and they wanted me to be one of the athletes to support.

“It was the right moment when they called, because I was in a very [difficult] mini period at the time. Somehow I forgot about this and I got a little bit more focussed upon tennis. If I have 100 per cent focus on tennis, then I don’t need to have the 40 per cent to think about the expense and everything.

“They helped me a lot. Every day I thank God for this and I thank them for this opportunity.”