Heading into the US Open, the pride of Tunisia and No. 5 player in the world, Ons Jabeur is coming off a Finals’ appearance at Wimbledon and riding some serious momentum.

“I feel good,” Jabeur told Muscle and Fitness. “I’m going to give everything I have left to be able to have a great result here in New York.”

Just shy of her 28th birthday, Jabeur is the highest-ranked African and Arab tennis player in WTA and ATP rankings history. She’s also the first Arab woman to win a WTA title and as she continues to excel, she’s helping grow the game of tennis in her country. Just last month, she was awarded the Great Medal of the National Order of Merit by Tunisian President and is affectionately referred to as the “Minister of Happiness” by Tunisians.

In a solo sport like tennis, there is already an immense amount of pressure to perform. You add the weight of being the first from your homeland to scale heights of a sport that no one had before you and it would be understandable if that load was too much to shoulder. It not only takes a special talent to embrace that level of pressure, but a talent with the mental makeup to understand that to become the player they’re determined to be, that pressure will only become greater the more they succeed, and on the other side of that pressure is greatness.

Muscle and Fitness caught up with Ons Jabeur to discuss her outlook on handling that pressure and how she prepares for a sport that keeps her busy 10 months out of the year.

Ons Jabeur returning a serve at Wimbledon
Ons Jabeur/Wimbledon

For Ons Jabeur, Fitness Training Is Key

Usually, we have a preparation of a month and a half to two months of really intense activity because we don’t have much time to prepare the body. It’s a great time to prepare the body for the full season. At the end of the year, usually around November 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 coming next. After those 10 days, usually the loads of fitness training are more than tennis [training]. I try to concentrate more on strength. When we’re going toward the tournaments in January, I train more on tennis and the fitness aspect becomes more specific to what I need on the court, such as my specific movements.

The hours I train on that is usually 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 Sundays, just to let my body recover and be ready for the next week. Tennis is a lot of weeks in a row. When I start competing, obviously, the workload drops a little because I’m preparing more to compete. In preparation for match days, I try to practice two hours on tennis and, an hour and a half on fitness ,and I’ll play for about an hour the next day 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’ll try to do a mini preseason — that’s what we call it. It’s also really intense but more specific to tennis. I try to really work on the cardio and strengthening so I can have the last push for the end of the season.

 

Tennis Requires Quick Recovery

Recovery is always important on and off the court. The simple things are what you eat and how you sleep is very important to recovery because you can see the effort we put in on the court, and the body needs to recover. I have different machines to help with recovery and I try to use red light therapy. It’s very helpful for me to relax. I try to meditate and get my brain recovered to get mentally prepared for all of the hard work and the competition. Tennis is one of the hardest sports. We compete every week and it’s difficult to recover quickly. Massages also help my muscles relax and that’s also very important.

 

Ons Jabeur Eats as Healthy As Humanly Possible

It doesn’t change much, but it changes when I have long matches and I need to recover or need certain carbs and protein. Usually, with athletes, it’s always, protein, rice, or pasta. [laughs] It’s the same thing every time. I’m more fish and rice. The only time that changes is during the offseason when I want to eat some unhealthy things, which is also healthy and good for the mind. After all, we are human beings, and we need to enjoy life as much as we can.

Lotto Love and Sponsorship

I’ve been with Lotto for a long time already. I really appreciate the opportunity they gave me. It’s tough when you come from Tunisia, not too many sponsors want you. Lotto has always been there for me and they’ve given me the opportunity to show who I am as a player. It gives me a lot of confidence as a tennis player to wear the kits. I’m just trying to use that motivation to work even harder and always give my best on the court.

Ons Jabeur Becomes the Pride Of Tunisia

It was amazing to be rewarded in that way in Tunisia. It’s unbelievable how many people care more and more about tennis right now. It’s really inspiring the entire nation. Usually, soccer is the first sport in Tunisia, but people are becoming more interested in tennis. They’re discussing 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 idea of a sport for a whole 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, back in 2016. I’ve always been into spiritual things that could help me relax. Like a lot of people, I didn’t know how to mediate. The more I got into it, the more I understood. I’m not saying I meditate every day and it usually depends on how I feel. Sometimes, you can meditate every day for months and sometimes you can just relax and do something else. Usually, the mediation helps me to relax and get the stress out. Every time I do a meditation, it’s with a goal. It’s either to let out stress or get more confidence. There’s a lot of benefits to it.

The pressure is never easy because I feel like the pressure is going up more and more. The more you do good, the pressure becomes more. I’m trying to excel through that kind of pressure and work on it because I feel like every time we try and push through something, we can get through it. For me, the first step is to accept that pressure, to really acknowledge it as part of being the player that I want to be. Honestly, I choose to be here, so I can’t really complain at the end of the day. With the mental work with a lot of meditation and focusing on the right things, that helps me know where I’m going and how to handle the pressure that I feel is a privilege for me.

I feel like tennis is one of the hardest sports. It’s a complete sport, the fact that you compete alone on a court, the season is 10 months out of the year — which is the longest of all the sports. It’s tough to manage every week and every tournament. We try to get used to it, organize our schedules so we can be ready and not burnout from playing. When you’re playing, you need to also maintain your rhythm throughout a tournament, which is tough. It’s a great sport, though and I’m always hungry to compete.

Follow Ons Jabeur on Instagram and catch her at the US Open, which begins Aug. 29.

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