Ons Jabeur gets out of the glass ceiling of their sport bit by bit.
Jabeur secured her spot in the Wimbledon women’s final with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 win over close friend Tatjana Maria, becoming the first African woman to win a Slam final in the Open era reached.
This year’s Wimbledon may be remembered for Saturday night’s bad-tempered argument between Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas, but perhaps that was the perfect antidote to all their rather tiresome macho theatrics.
The Tunisian Jabeur is a delight to watch as she processes her points, deftly plays the angles, mixes slice and top spin with a few expertly judged lobs to make the crowd ooh and aah.
It’s almost like stepping back in time when trailblazer Evonne Goolagong made this place her own, with a game made better by the sum of its parts rather than a pounding weapon.
“It’s a dream come true after years of sacrifice,” she said.
“I want to grow bigger and inspire many more generations. Tunisia is linked to the Arab world and also to the African continent.
“We didn’t believe enough that we could do it and I’m just trying to show that we can. I just love it here, it has such an energy.”
Jabeur was a talented junior, once winning the girls’ French Open title and partnering Ash Barty in doubles events. However, it’s fair to say that she’s taken the time to make a difference on the WTA Tour and won her biggest title in Madrid earlier this year at the age of 27. But this is a different stage altogether as she prepares to face Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina on Saturday.
Maria captioned these championships with one of her feel-good stories. If you had said last week that a player would end a 42-year wait for a mother to win the singles here, you would have thought of Serena Williams.
But instead it was Maria, a 34-year-old mother of two, who ranked outside of the world top 250 just a few months ago and came closest. Not bad considering she has reached the third round once in more than 30 attempts at this level.
“Tatyana is such an inspiration to so many including myself coming back after having two babies. She’s a beast, she doesn’t give up and she didn’t get tired,” added Jabeur. “Her touch and serve are really impressive – I hope she continues like that.”
At home, they call Jabeur the “Minister of Happiness” – and she has no intention of relinquishing that role against Rybakina.
“I know my game could really upset her,” she adds. “I’m going to try to focus more on myself, do a lot of slices and try to make them work really hard.
“They used to play a lot of slices before serve and volley tennis and I like the different style. It was very difficult to adapt to the changing rhythm of this type of game.
“Now it’s another match, another step to move on and hopefully get the title.”