Ons Jabeur did not capture the Wimbledon ladies’ singles crown in 2022, but she won the hearts and minds of everyone that caught a glimpse of her in action. The Tunisian was a breath of fresh air at SW19, as she has been since climbing up the WTA rankings to occupy a place inside the world’s top five.
A haul of career titles may only stand at three in the present, but enough progress has been made to suggest that there will be plenty more to come. Hers is a game perfectly suited to the demands of modern-day tennis, with the right mix of power and panache.
That skill set will be taken to New York in the autumn, with tennis odds today pricing her as a 16/1 shot for US Open glory at Flushing Meadows. Others may be earning greater favour in tennis predictions as Grand Slam action moves from the grass back to hard courts, but there would be few more popular winners were a route to major glory to be trodden in the Big Apple.
Jabeur has the ability to put smiles on faces wherever she goes and continues to prove that relentless drive at the business end of professional sport does not have to come at the cost of losing character. For her, brilliance on and off the court go hand in hand.
She has been appointed as ‘Minister of Happiness’ in tennis circles and is positively thriving in that role. It is, of course, easier to revel in such a standing when the day job is going well.
History in the making
Jabeur has made a habit of re-writing the record books of late, with history-making exploits becoming par for the course. She has become a role model to millions, with her profile now transcending a chosen profession that provided a window to the world.
At Wimbledon, she became the first African woman, and the first Arab or North African player, in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam final. Barriers were being broken down at every turn, with the likes of Mayar Sherif – an Egyptian talent that has also broken into the top 50 – looking to her for inspiration.
Superstar actress Hend Sabry has also spoken of her admiration for Jabeur and even offered support from the box occupied by Jabeur’s family and coaches during a Centre Court outing.
The transformation from a face in the crowd to the face of women’s tennis has been quite remarkable but is one that is thoroughly deserved. Jabeur is also fully aware of her standing and the importance of maximising the opportunities that come her way as a result of performing on a stage that is occupied by so few.
Winning tennis matches will always be her top priority, but a list of other responsibilities continues to grow. There is no danger of her backing down from that challenge or shying away from a position under the brightest of spotlights.
After collecting her runner-up prize at Wimbledon, Jabeur said to the assembled masses and those tuning in from across the planet, with a beaming smile in place: “I’m really happy that I’m trying to inspire many generations; I hope you’re listening.” It is safe to assume they are.
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