Ons Jabeur wants to make history at Wimbledon

This Saturday will be no exception as Jaber tries to become the first Tunisian, first Arab and first African to win a Grand Slam in the Open Era.

“Tunisia is connected to the Arab world, connected to the African continent,” she told reporters after she earned her place in the rankings. Wimbledon final, where she will play with Elena Rybakina from Kazakhstan, who herself creates history.

“We want to see more players in this area. It’s not like Europe or other countries. I want to see more players from my country, from the Middle East, from Africa.”

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

However, a victory on Saturday would have been the greatest achievement of her career.

“I have imagined many times giving a speech, holding the (Wimbledon) trophy, seeing the trophy,” Jaber said.

“I did it all. Now I really need to keep the trophy. This is the only thing left for me. But I believe in it. I know I can do it.”

Jabeur celebrating victory over Marie Buzkova in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.

Over the past few years, Jabeur has risen sharply in the global rankings, hitting the top 50 for the first time in 2020.

She won her first of three WTA tournaments last year and her next two in Madrid and Berlin earlier this season, putting her in second place in the world.

Her success on the court, combined with her friendly and carefree demeanor off the court, has made her a very popular figure at home in Tunisia, where she has earned the nickname “Minister of Happiness”.

“Sometimes there are difficult times in Tunisia,” Jabeur said. “When they see my matches, (they) always say that sport brings people together. I’m happy that they follow me. They push me to get better. I hope I can keep the title forever.”

This year at Wimbledon, Jabeur lost only two sets – against Marie Buzkova in the quarterfinals and against Maria Buzkova in the quarterfinals. Tatiana Maria in the semi-finals.

However, the tall, big-serving Rybakina only lost one set and is likely to be Zhaber’s toughest opponent so far, taking out 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in her semi-finals on Thursday.

Regardless of who wins, history will go down in history because when the two meet on Center Court, the first 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.

Rybakina, who was born and raised in Moscow, switched allegiances from Russia to Kazakhstan four years ago — a switch that seems particularly appropriate at this year’s tournament, given Wimbledon organizers’ decision to exclude Russian and Belarusian players due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

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

“I am really happy to represent Kazakhstan. They believed in me. There are no more questions about how I feel. It’s just that it’s been a long time, my way as a Kazakh player: I played at the Olympics, in the Federation Cup.”

Like Zhaber, Rybakina is enjoying the best Grand Slam of her career, having never gone beyond the quarterfinals before.

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

Saturday’s final will showcase contrasting styles, with Zhaber bringing an entertaining array of shots to his game with effective sweeps and drops, while Rybakina brings strength both on the backline and on her serve.

Jaber reaches for a low right hand during the semi-final against Tatiana Maria.

In that tournament, the 23-year-old threw 49 aces – 19 more than any other player – and delivered the second fastest serve in the women’s rally at 122 mph.

Jabeur is well aware of the challenges her opponent will face.

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

“I played with her a couple of times. I know she can hit really hard and hit a lot of winners. I know that my game can bother her a lot. try to make her work really hard.”

But for the so-called “Minister of Happiness,” Saturday’s match will also be all about enjoying the event, a moment that Jabeur previously thought she would never experience in her career.

“In general, I try to enjoy playing tennis because sometimes it’s hard when you play every week, when maybe you lose every week. It’s really hard.

“But I had to remind myself why I started playing tennis, what joy tennis brings me. As soon as I remind myself of this, I heat up, I have the motivation to go and play my next matches.