Jabeur ‘honored’ to represent Africa as Wimbledon dream ends

LONDON: Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur reacts against Belarus’s Aryna Sabalenka during their women’s quarter-final tennis match on the eighth day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on Tuesday. – AFP

LONDON: Ons Jabeur will not be lifting the Wimbledon women’s singles trophy this year but she said she was “honored” to have represented Africa with such style and gusto. Aryna Sabalenka ended Jabeur’s historic run at Wimbledon, the second-seeded Belarus player’s power getting the better of the guile of the Tunisian 6-4, 6-3 in 74 minutes.

Jabeur, though, took a lot of positives from the remarkable last few weeks which saw her become the first Arab woman to win a WTA event — the grasscourt tournament in Birmingham. She then beat three former Grand Slam title winners — Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Iga Swiatek — on her run to her second Grand Slam quarter-final.

“I’m honored,” she said about representing Africa at such a huge profile global sports event. “Also trying to represent a whole continent for me is very important. I try to behave well and give the right example for the young generation, for people following. We’re going through tough times in Tunisia with COVID and everything. I’m glad that I’m giving positive thoughts to people there.”

Jabeur departs having lost in her second Grand Slam quarter-final — the 2020 Australian Open being the previous one — a “barrier” she hopes to get across next time. However, the 26-year-old has done wonders in her goal to use her exploits to encourage young Arab women — especially North African — to take up the sport.

“I know that since 2011, since I won the junior Roland Garros title, I know that there are many girls wanted to play tennis and are dreaming more,” said Jabeur. “I feel like I’ve been carrying a great message trying to represent my country as best as I can. I think right now they are dreaming even bigger and they want to be here, they want to be me and follow in my steps.”

‘It’s really tricky’
Sabalenka may sport a tiger tattoo — which prompted her parents not to speak to her for a week in 1998 — but the broadest of smiles spread across her face as she soaked up the reality of her achievement. The 23-year-old, who had only won one match on her three previous visits to Wimbledon, will play former world number one Karolina Pliskova who eased into the last four with a straight sets win over Viktorija Golubic.

She will try and go one better than compatriot Viktoria Azarenka who twice reached the last four in 2011 and 2012. “I mean I am really happy with this win,” she said. “It’s always tough against Ons, she’s an amazing player and person. I’m happy it looks like everything is working for me. It’s really tricky, shots on the grass. It’s sometimes hard to do anything with the ball. It fits my game and I’m really enjoying my time on the court.”

Sabalenka said she was anticipating a tough battle on Thursday against Pliskova. “It doesn’t matter what happens in the past in tennis (playing Pliskova),” she said. “Pliskova’s a great player and she’s serving well. Her game fits really well on the grass and I’m going to do all I can to enjoy this one.” – AFP


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