'Our queen of happiness': Tennis star Ons Jabeur injects Tunisia with hope

Fans across North Africa and the world rejoice as No 21 seed sails into Wimbledon quarter-finals

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There’s little to rejoice over in Tunisia these days, between the swiftly-spreading Delta variant of the coronavirus, the battered economy and a long-simmering political stalemate. But then there is Ons Jabeur’s magnificent drop shot.

The Tunisian tennis player is dazzling spectators at Wimbledon and injecting hope in her country with her gutsy athleticism and come-from-behind wins en route to securing a slot in the tournament’s quarter-finals.

Tunisians took to Twitter and Facebook on Monday to laud Jabeur, 26, who they called “our queen of happiness,” and “our modern-day hero” after her 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 defeat of seventh seed Iga Swiatek in the fourth round.

“In this extended dark period of #coronavirus pandemic gloom, only #onsjabeur seems able to make thousands of #Tunisians forget about their uncertain plight,” wrote one observer on Twitter.

Jabeur is the first Tunisian – and Arab – woman to make the Wimbledon quarter-finals. On her way she faced and defeated tennis great Venus Williams in straight sets in the second round.

“You’re going to see a whole other generation of women from North Africa coming into tennis and it will be all owed to her,” Williams said of Jabeur after their match. “She’s inspiring to so many people, including me.”

Memes of Jabeur’s airborne, behind-the-back forehand in her match against Garbine Muguruza circulated online, along with a spate of cheeky portmanteau: Ons-toppable, Brav-Ons, Wimbled-Ons.

“Bravo! A big thank you for this well-deserved victory … We really need it in these difficult times …” wrote one Tunisian on Twitter.

One fan even recalled her rise, writing: “In 2012 I went to rent a court at the Menzah stadium. On center court was a young woman practicing who was just spectacular & had us all transfixed. My partner explained it was Ons Jabeur & who she was. Jabeur must have been only 18 then. What a national treasure.”

Jabeur made history last month as the first Tunisian and Arab woman to win a WTA title, beating Daria Kasatkina in the final of the grass court event in Birmingham. The win electrified Jabeur and her fans back at home. Now, many are pinning their hopes squarely on her shoulders to go all the way at Wimbledon.

“Ons Jabeur's performance at #Wimbledon is above all a great breath of fresh air for Tunisia, which needs it so badly at the moment,” another Tunisian Twitter user wrote. “Thank you champion, you have honoured your country, you have honoured your people, let's continue to dream together.”

Updated: July 06, 2021, 11:43 AM