Ons Jabeur defeated Donna Vekic in the Dubai Championship first round and in her post-match press conference several journalists drew parallels between her and Naomi Osaka in terms of inspiring their respective countries, Tunisia and Japan.
"I am the Naomi Osaka of Africa," Jabeur said laughing. "Yeah, it's inspiring to see how players can inspire a country or a continent. For me, I'm really happy to represent Tunisia. I'm trying to give my best, to behave well on the court, to try to give a good example for the young generation who want to achieve what I'm doing right now.
I'm trying to send a message that it's not impossible. You have to work hard. Why not? I want to see a lot of players from Tunisia to be here one day. It's one of my dreams." Asked about how she feels about her rise in her rankings, Jabeur added: "I was more focused on the level than the ranking.
I always say the ranking will follow up if I have a good level. I had pretty tough start of the year last year. I was trying to keep up with the results. I tried to be more me on the court, having fun. That's when I play the best game.
Hopefully, I can continue to have pleasure on-court, to be mentally stronger, especially some points that are really important that I don't have to waste. I mean, I can see that not only me have this struggle, but many, many good players, which is giving me more opportunity, actually more confidence to work more and be on the top."
On Osaka's character, Jabeur concluded: "I joke with everyone. She was so shy. She still is. She respects me. I love that about any player. When I see someone shy, I don't leave them alone, that's me (laughter). Even now, I'm still joking with her, with her fitness coach.
I'm wrestling with him because he's like this, Do you see these muscles? She's very nice, her family also very nice. I wish they could win more Grand Slam. Leave some for me, but hopefully, I can be there one time."
Jabeur, however, was forced to retire in her second-round match against Elina Svitolina at the Dubai Open with a shoulder injury.