Heading to the US Open, pride of Tunisia and . 5 player in the world, Ons Jabeur emerges from a finals appearance at Wimbledon and is building some serious momentum.
"I'm feeling good," Jabeur told Muscle and Fitness. "I'll do everything I have left to get a great result here in New York."
Nearing her 28th birthday, Jabeur is the highest ranked African and Arab tennis player in the history of the WTA and ATP rankings. She is also the first Arab woman to win a WTA title and as she continues to excel she is helping to grow the game of tennis in her country. Just last month she was awarded the Grand Medal of the National Order of Merit by the President of Tunisia and is affectionately known by Tunisians as the "Minister of Happiness".
In a solo sport like tennis there is immense pressure to perform. Add to this the weight of being the first from your home country to scale the heights of a sport that no one has before you and it would be understandable if that burden were too much to shoulder. It not only takes a special talent to withstand that pressure, but also a talent with the mental makeup to understand that the more successful they are, the more pressure there is to become the player they want to be and on the other side of this print is size.
Muscle and Fitness caught up with Ons Jabeur to discuss her take on dealing with that pressure and preparing for a sport that keeps her busy 10 months a year.
For Ons Jabeur, fitness is key
Usually we have a month and a half to two months of really intense activity preparation because we don't have much time to prepare the body. It's a great time to get the body ready for the full season. At the end of the year, usually vember or December, I do 10 days of just fitness. It's a lot of running and cardio to get my body ready for what's next. After those 10 days, the loads of fitness training are usually more than tennis [training]. I'm trying to focus more on strength. As we get closer to the tournaments in January, I train more tennis and the fitness aspect becomes more specific to what I need on the court, like my specific movements.
The hours I train for this are typically six to seven hours a day, five days a week. I try to get two days off in between and that's usually Wednesday and Sunday so my body can recover and be ready for the next week. Tennis is a lot of weeks in a row. Of course, when I start competing, the workload decreases a bit because I prepare more for the competition. In preparation for matchdays, I'm trying to practice two hours of tennis, an hour and a half of fitness, and the next day I'll play about an hour to get my body ready for the start of the tournament.
In the middle of the season, when I have a week or two, I try to do a mini preseason - that's what we call it. It's also very intense, but more specific to tennis. I'm trying to really work on cardio and strengthening so I have that last push for the end of the season.
Tennis requires quick recovery
Rest is always important on and off the pitch. The simple things are what you eat and how you sleep is very important for recovery because you can see how much effort we put in on the pitch and the body needs to recover. I have various devices to help me recover and I am trying to use red light therapy. It helps me a lot to relax. I try to meditate and rest my brain to mentally prepare myself for all the hard work and competition. Tennis is one of the toughest sports. We compete every week and it's difficult to recover quickly. Massages also help my muscles to relax and that is also very important.
Ons Jabeur eats as healthily as possible
It doesn't change much, but it does change when I have long games and need to recover or need specific carbs and protein. rmally for athletes it is always protein, rice or pasta. [laughs] It's the same every time. I'm more fish and rice. The only time that changes is during the off-season when I want to eat something unhealthy that is also healthy and good for the spirit. After all, we are human and we need to enjoy life as much as possible.
Lottery love and sponsorship
I've been with the lottery for a long time. I really appreciate the opportunity they gave me. It's tough when you're from Tunisia, not too many sponsors want you. Lotto has always been there for me and has given me the opportunity to show myself as a player. It gives me a lot of confidence as a tennis player to wear the shirts. I'm just trying to use that motivation to work even harder and always do my best on the pitch.
Ons Jabeur becomes the pride of Tunisia
It was amazing to be rewarded in this way in Tunisia. It's unbelievable how many people are becoming more and more interested in tennis. It really inspires the whole nation. Usually football is the first sport in Tunisia, but people are more and more interested in tennis. They discuss tennis and everyone knows how to play for some reason. It's amazing to see how interested they are in the sport now. It means a lot to change the very idea of a sport for an entire nation.
Meditation helps maintain a healthy mind for Ons Jabeur
I started meditating a few years ago. I started working with mental coach Melanie Maillard in 2016. I've always been interested in spiritual things that can help me relax. Like many people I didn't know how to mediate. The more I looked into it, the more I understood. I'm not saying I meditate every day and it usually depends on how I'm feeling. Sometimes you can meditate every day for months and other times you can just relax and do something else. Mediation usually helps me to relax and relieve stress. Every time I meditate, I have a goal. Either to relieve stress or to get more self-confidence. It has many advantages.
The pressure is never easy because I feel like the pressure keeps increasing. The more you do good, the greater the pressure. I try to shine through that kind of pressure and work at it because I feel like every time we try to push through, we can pull through. For me, the first step is accepting that pressure, really acknowledging it as part of being the player I want to be. Honestly, I chose to be here, so at the end of the day I can't really complain. The mental work with lots of meditation and focus on the right things helps me to know where I'm going and how to deal with the pressure I feel privileged to have.
In my opinion, tennis is one of the toughest sports. It's a complete sport, the fact that you compete alone on a court, the season lasts 10 months a year - which is the longest of any sport. It's difficult to manage every week and every tournament. We're trying to get used to it, organizing our schedules to be ready and not burn out from playing. When you play, you also need to keep your rhythm during a tournament, which is tough. It's a great sport though and I'm always hungry to compete.
Follow Ons Jabeur on Instagram and see her at the US Open which starts on August 29th.