Ons Jabeur, the Tunisian tennis star, known at home as the Minister of Happiness, is looking for her first Grand Slam title in this year’s final.
Winning Wimbledon has long been a dream for Ons Jabeur. Before competing in the finals last year, she set the championship trophy, the Venus Rosewater Dish, as the screensaver on her mobile phone. This week, when asked what photograph she currently possessed, she replied, “Can I answer after the final?”
Jabeur is not naturally patient, but she has been putting in the effort to become more so. The 28-year-old Tunisian tennis player has never won a Grand Slam. After reaching the Wimbledon final for the second year in a row, she will get another chance on Saturday.
“My team always looks at me as if to say, ‘Be patient, don’t worry, it’s going to happen, it’s going to come,'” she said after this week’s semi-final victory over world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka. She claims that she is a “different player” this season. “I’m working on myself like mad. You do not understand what I am doing.”
Standing on Centre Court on Thursday evening, an emotional Jabeur said: “I’m very proud of myself because the old me maybe would have lost that match today and went back home already. But I’m glad I kept digging very deep and finding the strength,” before being interrupted by cheers from the crowd. “I’m learning to transform the bad energy into good.”
Jabeur was born in the town of Ksar Hellal, but she now resides in Tunis with her husband, the former fencer Karim Kamoun, who is a full-time fitness coach. Her mother was a tennis enthusiast and took the young Ons to her club, where she began playing at the age of three.
I took the racquets after observing her playing tennis. I, too, desired to participate. And I was an antagonist. Last year, Jabeur stated in an interview, “She had to allow me to do something in order for me to remain silent.”
She relocated to Tunis as a child in order to enhance her tennis skills. After winning the juvenile French Open in 2011, Jabeur steadily climbed the global rankings, reaching the top 100 in 2017 and then the top 50 in 2020. Her triumph occurred when she won the Madrid Open in 2022, garnering her international attention. Within a short time, Serena Williams requested her to play doubles at Eastbourne prior to Wimbledon.
Prior to last year, Jabeur’s best Grand Slam performance was a quarterfinal appearance.After Wimbledon, she advanced to the final of the US Open, where she was again defeated.”I’ll learn a great deal from not only [last year’s] Wimbledon final, but also the US Open final, and give it my all. “Perhaps this year was all about trying twice and getting it right the third time,” she said.
On Saturday, Jabeur will carry the hopes of a nation and a continent once more as she attempts to become the first African and first Arab woman to capture a Grand Slam title. “I have a singular objective, and I am pursuing it. I will be completely ready. She stated prior to the final, “I hope to make history not only for Tunisia, but for all of Africa.”
In Tunisia, Jabeur is often referred to as the “Minister of Happiness” due to her contagious optimism and irrepressible sense of humor. La Poste Tunisienne issued a special stamp depicting a smiling Jabeur brandishing the Tunisian flag and punching the air to commemorate her run at Wimbledon the previous year.
To claim the coveted title, Jabeur must now defeat Markéta Vondrouová, the tattooed Czech player ranked 42nd in the world. Both individuals are 5ft 6in tall. “In some ways, we’re the same. Drop shots are being played. Vondrouová stated to her opponent, “We’re playing slice.” “She has experience in Grand Slam finals. I mean, it’s the championship, so it’s going to be a difficult match”.
Jabeur, who is currently ranked sixth in the world, has not had an easy path to this competition. This year’s Australian Open resulted in a knee injury that necessitated surgery, delaying her competitive return until March.
In the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, she faced reigning champion Elena Rybakina, but she was able to overcome her potent serve and win the match from a set down. Before the tournament, Jabeur joked, “It’s not great entering the locker room and seeing Elena’s photo, but I try to remove it.”
After capturing the first set and breaking Jabeur’s serve early in the second, the tall, powerful Sabalenka appeared to have a good chance of winning. However, the Tunisian’s rapid hands, quick mind, and mental endurance proved decisive once again.
After her loss, Sabalenka remarked, “She had the chance, and she took it.” “Emotionally, I was a little bit down, but she was up. She was simply aiming for some shots that I would say she wouldn’t normally take.”
Her rivals have frequently praised Jabeur’s affability and charisma. At the conclusion of her Wimbledon semifinal last year, she defied convention by pulling her vanquished opponent into the center of the court so that she could bask in her own acclaim.
Those same characteristics have made her a fan favorite among those observing. At one point during her semi-final match on Thursday, Jabeur raised a finger to her ear and turned toward the raucous Wimbledon crowd. She blasted kisses after gaining victory.
“I always discussed my relationship with the audience. “I believe the crowd provides me with tremendous energy,” she said. “Thank God that they’re not against me.”
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