Tennis-Jabeur predicts ‘special’ 2023 as she targets Grand Slam title

(Reuters) – Ons Jabeur missed two opportunities to become the first Arab player to capture a Grand Slam singles title this year, but the Tunisian said on Saturday that 2023 can be special for her as she chases her dream.

Jabeur, whose sublime skills and endearing personality won her fans around the world in 2022, was beaten by Elena Rybakina in the Wimbledon final before another heartbreaking loss to the top-ranked Iga Swiatek in the U.S. Open final.

“I was ready to win it this year. But it didn’t happen and didn’t happen for a reason. I’m glad that I got the experience of two finals in a Grand Slam,” world number two Jabeur said before her season opener in Adelaide.

“We’ve worked really hard to improve a lot of things during the pre-season. We’re more aware of my game. I’m more aware of my body. It’s a great thing. I feel like this year (2023) is going to be very special for me,” she said.

“I put in the hard work during practice, and I’m hitting the ball good. What has to be done is to play good matches and do whatever I did in practice and follow that.

“I’m doing everything possible to win a Grand Slam, and for me, I’m just going to go for it. This year, 2023, is about just being free and playing my game on the court.”

But Jabeur expects to be tested by her rivals, with the women’s field as competitive as ever despite Swiatek scooping eight titles in 2022 and the retirement of former world number one Ash Barty in March, not long after the Australian won the season-opening major.

“I just like the idea of not knowing who’s going to win,” Jabeur said. “I feel like it’s been the same. When you play a top-10 player, it’s always tough to beat. We’re always trying to maintain at that level.

“With Iga’s result, she gave us a lot of confidence to go after her and that’s competitive, which is good because Ash was doing that, now Iga’s doing the same thing.”

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Alison Williams)

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