Ons Jabeur an inspiration for Tunisians despite Wimbledon defeat

Tennis star lost to Marketa Vondrousova following epic tournament run

The Wimbledon final was bittersweet for Ons Jabeur and her fans in Tunisia. PA
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It was a heartbreaking defeat that, again, denied Ons Jabeur the chance to become a tennis grand slam title holder – with the Tunisian star calling it the “most painful loss” of her career.

But one thing remains uncontested – her capacity to bring joy to those across Tunisia every time her name is mentioned.

After the final – bittersweet for both Jabeur and her fans in her home country – Tunisian social media feeds were filled with words of encouragement for the star, alongside her speech at the tournament.

“What she has done to Tunisia since her rise to stardom goes beyond imagination and is uncontested,” Alaa, 28, told The National at a cafe in Kram suburb north of Tunis after the game.

“I think she would have got even more credit if she were a male football player, but for a newly found sport for many Tunisians, the attention and respect she is garnering is an indication that this is only the start,” he said.

Certainly, Jabeur managed to turn a country with a sporting culture that revolves around football into one with a huge interest in a sport previously reserved for its elite.

“People need to know that for someone who comes from a country where grass tennis courts do not exist, reaching that level of sportsmanship is a true man-made miracle,” Jabeur fan Raouf told The National.

“I understand that it is heartbreaking for Ons at the moment – anyone who plays competitive sports would be [heartbroken] – but she should just look at what she has done, instead of what she hasn't yet.”

Despite the disappointment of the Wimbledon title not heading to Tunisia, praise for Jabeur’s top-tier play could be heard all around.

For some, Jabeur's inspirational story gave them a break from the country's deepening economic crisis, as well as the unbearable heatwave.

Generations of women and children from Tunisia, the Arab world and North Africa have a new hero.

“She filled Tunisian hearts with joy at a time where there is little to be happy about in this country,” sports reporter Ramzi Bahroun told The National.

“I brought my grandkids to watch the final match today regardless of the results,” said Akila, from La Goulette.

Akila said she wanted to show her grandchildren that a Tunisian, who looks and speaks like them, can be applauded by the world.

“I know things are tough at the moment and all young people want to find the fastest route to leave,” she said.

“But we should at least teach our kids to take pride in where they come from, no matter where they go.”

Updated: July 18, 2023, 5:59 AM