Ons Jabeur, Tunisia’s so-called Minister of Happiness, hopes she has proved that nothing is impossible after serving up an early Eid gift on Thursday by becoming the first Arab to reach a Grand Slam singles final at Wimbledon.
The 27-year-old third seed also became the first African woman to reach the showpiece match at the All England Club after her 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory over close friend Tatjana Maria.
“I want to go bigger, inspire many more generations. Tunisia is connected to the Arab world, is connected to the African continent. The area, we want to see more players,” said Jabeur, who faces Russian-born Kazakh Elena Rybakina in the final.
“It’s not like Europe or any other countries. I want to see more players from my country, from the Middle East, from Africa.
“I think we didn’t believe enough at a certain point that we can do it. Now I’m just trying to show that (we can). Hopefully people are getting inspired.”
Jabeur has been a trailblazer for her region throughout her career, last year becoming the first Arab player to win a WTA title, the first to crack the top 10 and the first to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
She has moved up a level this year and admits she had set her sights on Wimbledon’s lawns, surprising given that as a child learning the game she never even saw a grass court and her ambition was to win the French Open.
“The dream kind of started last year when I enjoyed playing here, enjoyed the crowd,” Jabeur said.
“I didn’t play so many Wimbledons before. Usually it was the first and second round.
“It’s tricky to play on grass but I knew I was playing good on grass because of my game and everything. Last year I told Melanie (Maillard), my mental coach, I told her I’m coming back next year for the title, when I lost in the quarter-finals.
“I just love everything around here, the atmosphere and everything. It was my main goal from the beginning of the season, and even from last year.
“I’m one step away from achieving it. I did imagine myself giving the speech, holding the trophy, seeing the trophy. Now I really need to hold the trophy.”
Jabeur, whose idol growing up was Andy Roddick, lost her way in the second set against German Maria, but quickly recovered to ease through the decider — proof that the work she has put in with Maillard since 2016 has had a calming effect.
“We do a lot of breathing, a lot of meditation,” she said. “It’s nice to get out all the feelings, all the stress.
“For someone that couldn’t handle a lot of stress before, I’m trying to get used to it. Most important thing is accepting it. What we are living is a very tough sport.”
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