"Is it a plus or a minus?": Middle East fanfare could help or hurt Ons Jabeur admits Martina Navratilova

18-times Grand Slam champion Martina Navratilova has chosen Ons Jabeur as one of the players who could find a boost in the Middle East tournaments. The Tunisian has yet to find consistency in 2024 and will likely have the crowd on her side as the primary Arab hope in the Doha Qatar Open and the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

Despite Jabeur not being in her best form, Navratilova believes that the upcoming WTA 1000 events could be an opportune moment for Jabeur to regain her momentum: "It will be interesting to see if the pressure of 'playing at home' hurts her or helps her. These are her countries; she represents everybody there. Is it a plus or a minus?"

According to Navratilova, if Jabeur achieves good results, it could provide her with renewed confidence for the upcoming season: "She got beaten badly by Andreeva, so I don’t think her confidence is too high,” the former world No. 1 added.

“That she lost wasn’t bad, but how she lost was. But maybe, hopefully, playing there will bring the confidence back -- a new sense of confidence, energy concentration. I hope so because the game is better with her near the top."

Inconsistent start to Jabeur's season

The World No. 6 kicked off her season directly at the Australian Open without any preceding tournaments. After a first-round victory against Yulia Starodubtseva, who came through the qualifiers, she faced a decisive defeat in the second round against the 16-year-old sensation Mirra Andreeva, losing 0-6, 2-6.

In the early stages of the Middle East tour, she entered the WTA 500 Abu Dhabi Open as the second seed. Despite a convincing win over Emma Raducanu (6-4, 6-1) in the first round, she bowed out in the quarterfinals against the World No. 13, Beatriz Haddad Maia (6-3, 6-4). Despite Haddad Maia being a formidable opponent, Jabeur experienced physical difficulties in the second set, shedding tears during the match due to knee pain.

"I have been struggling with the knee for a long time, and last week was very, very tough," Jabeur said Sunday at Media Day in Doha. "Hopefully I can recover in time and then play better here in Doha.”

In the Doha Open, she will be the 4th seed and will face the Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko (No. 37). The Tunisian did not participate in Middle East tournaments last year, so she does not defend points until March at Indian Wells.

"For me personally, it is very important to be here to connect with Arabic crowds. I feel so much love here in the region, and obviously that’s one of the reasons I chose to play Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai, because I feel so good here,” Jabeur added.

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