Saudi Arabia’s Al-Thuqbah take archery gold at Arab Women’s Sports Tournament in Sharjah

Ons Jabeur was left heartbroken after being forced to withdraw from last year’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships owing to injury.

But the Arab star player is now more determined than ever to taste success at the annual Women’s Tennis Association Tour event.

Jabeur had to undergo knee surgery following the 2023 Australian Open, which prevented her from participating in both Doha and Dubai last season and resulted in a two-month period on the sidelines.

After an injury-plagued season, the Tunisian is back on the court and totally focused on achieving her ultimate dream – a Grand Slam title.

Jabeur, 29, has come tantalizingly close to clinching that elusive crown on three separate occasions already, only to be thwarted by the narrowest of margins each time.

She returned to Melbourne at the start of this year but fell to a shock defeat in the second round to 16-year-old sensation Mirra Andreeva in straight sets. Undeterred, she has come back strongly from that setback, reaching the quarterfinals of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open producing a string of impressive displays.

However, Jabeur’s focus now shifts to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which has now acquired a permanent WTA 1000 status.

The world No. 6’s appearance at the tournament is highly anticipated among a star-studded WTA line-up featuring 17 of the world’s top 20 players, including World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, two-time Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka, and 2023 US Open winner Coco Gauff.

Executive vice chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free, Colm McLoughlin, said: “Ons Jabeur’s incredible journey embodies the spirit of perseverance and achievement that defines our tournament.

“We are proud to host her in Dubai once again as she continues to pursue her dreams, and we are confident that her presence will further elevate the excitement surrounding the championships.”

Jabeur first took part at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in 2012 as a relatively unknown player from Tunisia, receiving a wildcard into the qualifying rounds. Ranked 1,169th in the world at the time, she faced the top seed, Zheng Jie, who she defeated in straight sets before narrowly losing to Arantxa Rus 7-5 in the third round. Since then, she has been part of the championships on several occasions, but the elusive title search is still on.

Following strong progress in 2018, Jabeur was recognized with the Arab Women of the Year in Sports Award the following year – a notable and poignant moment for her.

But it was not until 2020 that her career really hit a steady upward trajectory. In that year she became the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament by beating former World No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, in what was to be the final match of her career.

That was a significant achievement, but it was just a sign of what was to come.

She became the first Arab woman to win a WTA title at the Birmingham Classic in 2021 – reaching the doubles final – as well as the Charleston and Chicago finals and the semi-finals of Indian Wells. Impressively, Jabeur also beat esteemed competition in the form of Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza, and Swiatek to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals in the same year.

Jabeur’s maiden WTA 1000 title triumph came in Madrid in 2022, along with two Grand Slam finals appearances at both Wimbledon and the US Open, as she made history for Tunisia, Africa, and the Arab world.

Her enduring star power, both on and off the court, resonates strongly, not only regionally, but around the world. And that support was expected to be visible in full force later this month when she returns to Dubai.

Joint chief operating officer of Dubai Duty Free and tournament director of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Salah Tahlak, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Ons Jabeur back to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

“She is an Arab icon, and her resilience, determination, and the progress she has made over the years are an inspiration to everyone, especially aspiring players in the region. We look forward to witnessing her talent on the court again.”