LONDON — Ons Jabeur was one set away from winning a Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last year and the Tunisian said that she hoped to go one step further this time around and make history at the All England Club.
Jabeur took the first set in last year’s final before Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina rallied to win in three, denying the Tunisian a first Grand Slam crown.
The 28-year-old, who also lost in the US Open final last year, will once again bid to become the first African woman and Arab player to win a Grand Slam singles title.
“People mentioning I’m the finalist of last year, it’s not great going in the locker room and seeing Elena’s picture but I try to take it off,” Jabeur told reporters amid laughter.
“But again, a final is a great final; it’s a Grand Slam final. I just want to use that experience, use the pressure that I felt last year, to maybe do better this year.
“My first goal here is to really enjoy playing on grass, maybe recreate greater memories like last year or the year before,” Jabeur added according to Reuters.
Sixth seed Jabeur will face Poland’s Magdalena Frech in the first round on Tuesday and the Tunisian said the first week will be “very tough and very tricky”. She is projected to meet Rybakina in the quarter-finals this year.
“I usually don’t (look at the draw), but it’s a mistake to look at social media when the draw is out. Sometimes I go in, Projected? No, I try not to look,” she added with a laugh.
“I feel like our side of the draw is more packed than the other one.”
Elsewhere, Nick Kyrgios withdrew from Wimbledon with a wrist injury, stripping the tournament of one its headline acts 12 months after the firebrand Australian finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic.
“I’m really sad to say that I have to withdraw from Wimbledon this year,” the 28-year-old wrote on Instagram, explaining that he had hurt his wrist as he prepared in vain to play in Mallorca last week.
Kyrgios had been an injury doubt in the build-up to Wimbledon. However, that was because he was struggling to recover from knee surgery which has restricted him to just one match in 2023.
“I tried my hardest to be ready after my surgery and to be able to step on the Wimbledon courts again. During my comeback, I experienced some pain in my wrist during Mallorca,” he added according to AFP.
“As a precaution, I had it scanned and it came back showing a torn ligament in my wrist.
“I tried everything to be able to play and I am disappointed to say that I just didn’t have enough time to manage it before Wimbledon.
“I’ll be back, and as always, I appreciate the support from all my fans.”
Kyrgios had been due to face wild card David Goffin in the first round at the All England Club.
His place in the draw will be taken by a lucky loser from qualifying.
Kyrgios, whose lone match in 2023 came in Stuttgart last month, said that his battle to regain full fitness had been “brutal”.
However, he added: “I didn’t miss the sport. I was almost dreading coming back a little bit, but it’s my job.”
He also admitted there remained “question marks” over his ability to play best-of-five sets after such a lengthy absence.
“I feel like to the outside world, people don’t understand. Just because it’s not contact, it’s not that physical.
“I dare someone to go out there and play four hours with Novak and see how you feel afterwards.”
At Wimbledon in 2022, the Australian dominated most of the headlines.
His high-octane, flamboyant shot-making was accompanied by signature clashes with rivals and officialdom.
He was fined $10,000 for spitting and $4,000 for shouting obscenities — one of which sent the British tabloids into meltdown as it was within earshot of eight-year-old Prince George.
Kyrgios also fought out an explosive third round clash with Stefanos Tsitsipas with the Greek even describing him as “evil” and a “bully”.
In the final against Djokovic, he demanded a woman be ejected from the crowd for consuming “700 drinks, bro”.
“In a way it was good to be home. Obviously heartbreaking as well,” said Kyrgios as he reflected on his time out of the sport.
“Last year I felt like everything kind of came together for me. Finals of Wimbledon. Barely lost a match. Had the third best season on tour.
“Obviously my body was just crying out for some sort of rest.”
For Kyrgios, being away from the tennis courts didn’t mean an absence from the public view.
In May, his car was stolen from his mother at gunpoint outside the family home in Canberra.
Before that incident, Kyrgios pleaded guilty in February to assaulting a former girlfriend.
He avoided a conviction for what the magistrate called a “single act of stupidity”.
Kyrgios has also been the headliner in the Netflix series Break Point where he spoke candidly about his mental health.
He admitted he had considered suicide and ended up in a psychiatric ward in 2019.
“It took me seven, eight years to be able to just open up about that,” he explained.