Ons Jabeur aims to make more history at Wimbledon

This Saturday will be no different as Jabeur attempts to become the first Tunisian, Arab and African woman to win a grand slam in the Open Era.

“Tunisia is connected to the Arab world, is connected to the African continent,” she told reporters after securing her place in the Wimbledon final, where she will face Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, herself the author of the story. .

“In the region, we want to see more players. It’s not like Europe or any other country. I want to see more players from my country, from the Middle East, from Africa.”

Jabeur, 27, was a trailblazer for her region long before reaching Saturday’s final. Last year, she became the first Arab player to win a WTA title and break into the top 10 in the singles rankings.

Saturday’s win, however, would be the biggest achievement of his career.

“I often imagined myself giving the speech, holding the (Wimbledon) trophy, seeing the trophy,” Jabeur said.

“I did everything. Now I really need to hold the trophy. It’s the only thing I have left. But I believe in it. I know I can do it.”

Jabeur has seen a strong rise in the world rankings over the past few years, entering the top 50 for the first time in 2020.

She won her first of three WTA events last year and won her next two – in Madrid and Berlin – earlier this season, propelling her to an all-time world record second.

Her success on the pitch – coupled with her friendly and easy-going demeanor – saw her become a hugely popular figure back home in Tunisia, where she earned the nickname “Minister of Happiness”.

“It’s sometimes difficult in Tunisia,” Jabeur said. “When they see my matches, (they) always say that sport unites people. I’m glad they follow me. They push me to do better. I hope I can keep the title forever.”

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Jabeur has dropped just two sets so far at Wimbledon this year – to Marie Bouzkova in the quarterfinals and Tatjana Maria in the semis.

However, the heavy-serving great Rybakina has dropped just one set and will likely be Jabeur’s toughest opponent so far, having dismantled 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in her semi-final. final Thursday.

No matter who wins, history will be written because when the two meet on center court, a first-time Wimbledon winner will be crowned and either Tunisia or Kazakhstan will celebrate their first Grand Slam singles champion.

Rybakina defeated former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep on Thursday.

Rybakina, born and raised in Moscow, switched allegiance from Russia to Kazakhstan four years ago – a change that seems particularly relevant for this year’s tournament given Wimbledon organizers’ decision to exclude Russian players and Belarusians amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“I’ve been playing for Kazakhstan for a long time already,” Rybakina told reporters on Thursday when asked about her nationality.

“I’m really happy to represent Kazakhstan. They believed in me. There’s no question about how I feel anymore. It’s just already long, my journey as a Kazakh player: I played in Olympics, Fed Cup.”

Like Jabeur, Rybakina is enjoying the best Grand Slam tournament of his career, having never made it past the quarter-finals.

The two players have faced each other three times before, with Jabeur winning twice, including their last meeting in Chicago last year.

Saturday’s final will feature contrasting styles: Jabeur brings an entertaining range of shooting to his game, deploying cut and drop shots to good effect, while Rybakina brings power – from the baseline as well as with his serve.

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Jabeur hits a low forehand in her semi-final against Tatjana Maria.

The 23-year-old has hit 49 aces so far in this tournament – 19 more than any other player – and recorded the second-fastest serve on the women’s chart at 122 miles per hour.

Jabeur is well aware of the challenges that her opponent will pose to her.

“She serves really well, so my main goal is to return as many balls as possible, to make her work really hard to win the point,” Jabeur said.

“I’ve played her a few times. I know she can hit really hard and hit a lot of winners. I know my game could really bother her. I’m really trying to focus more on myself, do a lot slices, really try to make her work hard.”

But for the so-called ‘Minister of Happiness’, Saturday’s game will also be about seizing the opportunity – a moment Jabeur previously thought he would never experience in his career.

“Overall, I try to like playing tennis because sometimes it’s hard to do it when you play every week, when you maybe lose every week. It’s really hard.

“But for me, I had to remember why I started playing tennis, what kind of joy tennis brings me. As soon as I remember that, I’m pumped, motivated to go out there and play my next matches. “


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