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Tunisia's Jabeur plays mind games to climb rankings

PARIS (Reuters) - Ons Jabeur was fed up with her ranking at the start of 2020, having dropped to 85th in the world, but after making mental adjustments the Tunisian is firmly on course to achieve her target of breaking into the women’s top 20.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - WTA Premier 5 - Italian Open - Foro Italico, Rome, Italy - September 15, 2020 Tunisia's Ons Jabeur in action during her first round match against Coco Gauff of the U.S. Pool via REUTERS/Clive Brunskill

Jabeur became the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final at this year’s Australian Open to start climbing the rankings and she has not looked back since.

The 26-year-old also made the last eight in Qatar before the shutdown of the circuit due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She continued her strong showing after the resumption on the hardcourts at Lexington and New York, where she reached the quarter-finals of the Western & Southern Open and the U.S. Open third round.

Asked what changes she made to her game, Jabeur said: “The mindset.

“I put something in my head that I kind of got sick being all the time in 50 or top 100. I know that I was able to win against some players from top 10, top 20.

“I was not afraid to push more or get injured. Usually I was kind of stuck in that side with my mind: If I want to push harder, I think that I will get injured. So I took that off my mind. It really helped me.”

She climbed to her career-high ranking of 31st at the end of August.

“I always want to achieve the top 20 ranking,” the former French Open junior champion said after defeating Japan’s Nao Hibino 7-6(4) 6-4 to set up a third-round clash against eighth seed Aryna Sabalenka.

“Obviously, it’s going to be different this year because there is not a lot of tournaments. But it’s the same goals. I’m still keeping my motivation on to really play good. To be honest, I’m loving it.”

Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Ed Osmond

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