Ons Jabeur made history on Saturday as she became the first Arab woman to qualify for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships after claiming a tough win over Gabriela Dabrowski.
The Tunisian followed up her opening round win against Paula Cristina Goncalves on Friday with a battling victory over Dabrowski, who was up a set and a break before Jabeur struck back.
Jabeur’s compatriot Selima Sfar and Omani player Fatma Al Nabhani have both appeared in the Dubai main draw before but only via wildcards.
This is the third WTA main draw event of the season where Jabeur has managed to qualify and the former Roland Garros junior champion is looking forward to her opener with No14 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Sunday.
“I’m really excited to be at this level, it’s changing. It’s a Premier event here, it’s a big tournament and I’m really looking forward to play,” Jabeur told Sport360.
“I like to play these matches (against big players). I invite all the Arab and Tunisian people living in Dubai to come and support me, even if I’m playing a big player. Hopefully I’ll go forward in this draw.”
Jabeur credited her increased level of fitness for hanging in there after coming ever so close to losing to her Canadian opponent on Saturday.
“I wasn’t playing that well in the first set, I was really angry about my game. But after that – I think when I’m down I play better, it happened many times. I was a little bit nervous but I just played my game,” said the 22-year-old.
“It was also a bit tough in the tiebreak because I was down 4-2. And lately I’ve been losing all the tiebreaks so I was thinking about that during the match, that was really bad for me. but I think after that in the third set she was tired, I didn’t give her a chance to come back or do better.
“Physically I’m better now, which is helping me more and more. I was trying not to give up and play my game, always there for all the balls so they will maybe lose the confidence to go and play the rallies with me.”