Ons Jabeur and 10 Arab sportswomen to watch in 2022

Tunisian tennis star looking to build on a record-breaking 2021

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Ons Jabeur (Tunisia) – Tennis

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The Tunisian continues her historic rise up the WTA rankings and kicks off her 2022 campaign at No 10 in the world.

The 27-year-old enjoyed a history-making 2021, becoming the first Arab player – man or woman – to make it to the top 10 in tennis, peaking at No 7 in November.

She became the first Arab to win a WTA title when she triumphed in Birmingham last June, and followed that up by becoming the first Arab woman to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.

“As you know I’m someone that likes challenges and especially likes to say the goals out loud. I want to keep breaking records, I want to keep making history and giving even more the example for the athletes out there,” Jabeur told reporters in Abu Dhabi last month.

“I want to continue my journey and be able to win more titles, prove myself that I deserve the spot in the top 10. I’m very ambitious for next year, I’m going to expand more the team, I’ll let you know when everything is confirmed and it’s going to be a great season hopefully.”

Hamda Al Qubaisi (UAE) – Motorsport

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Having already secured six victories in the F4 UAE championship, the Emirati teenager made history in 2021, by becoming the first woman to step on the podium in the Italian F4 Championship, when she finished third at Misano last June.

“What an amazing feeling! I got my first podium, and it was quite unexpected. Obviously, I knew I had the pace and I could reach the top three, but it is a dream come true for me,” Al Qubaisi said after the race.

The 19-year-old from Abu Dhabi, following in the footsteps of her father Khaled and her older sister Amna, has made a lasting impression on racing in Italy for Prema Powerteam and will be eyeing further success this year in Formula 4 and the Formula Regional Asian Championship.

Farah Jefry (Saudi Arabia) – Football

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Jefry and her Jeddah Eagles side have just been crowned Western Region champions in the Saudi Women’s Football League.

In the league’s inaugural edition, the Saudi teenager finished as top-scorer aged just 17.

Now 18, the midfielder recently turned up in a photo on Zinedine Zidane’s Instagram, who met with Jefry and Emirati footballer Nouf Al Anzi as part of a campaign for their shared sponsor, Adidas.

“Thank you for sharing your passion for football with me. Keep going on your journey,” Zidane wrote in the caption.

Jefry is the first woman from Saudi Arabia to be named as an ambassador for Adidas and she is thrilled to play a part in promoting women’s sport in the country.

“I am happy with the development of women’s football in Saudi Arabia, and I aspire to do more with the hope that the spotlight will be on more female talents,” she said.

Hana Goda (Egypt) – Table tennis

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In December 2019, at just 12 years of age, Goda became the first African to be ranked No 1 in the ITTF Under 15 girls’ cadet category.

Last September, age 13, the Egyptian prodigy defeated Africa's most successful female player Dina Meshref 4-2 in the semi-finals to become the youngest finalist in the history of the African Table Tennis Championships.

At the ITTF World Youth Championships last month, Goda won gold in the U15 girls’ doubles event and took silver in the singles, to finish her landmark 2021 on a high note.

Now 14, Goda is ranked No 4 in the world youth rankings, among players aged 19 and under.

An Olympic champion in the making, Goda’s journey is already a remarkable one and she already has her sights set on making more history in 2022.

Maha Haddioui (Morocco) – Golf

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The 33-year-old Moroccan is the first Arab to earn playing privileges on the Ladies European Tour and just wrapped up her 11th full season competing on the circuit.

In 2021, Haddioui qualified for her second consecutive Olympic Games, where she stunned with an ace on the seventh hole in Round 2 before concluding her Tokyo campaign in 43rd place.

The Agadir resident’s 2021 season was highlighted by an 11th-place finish at the Czech Ladies Open and more recently an eighth-place finish at the Aramco Team Series event in Jeddah.

Nour El Tayeb (Egypt) – Squash

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Back from maternity leave, the former world No 3 made a winning return to the PSA tour a few weeks ago, defeating compatriot Hana Ramadan to reach the quarter-finals of the CIB Squash Open Black Ball, just five months after giving birth to her baby daughter Farida.

El Tayeb, who slipped to No 9 in the rankings, will be looking to climb her way back up and challenge fellow Egyptians Nour El Sherbini and Nouran Gohar at the top.

Can the 28-year-old recapture her best form and make it to the highest level as a new mom? It will be interesting to find out.

Mayar Sherif (Egypt) – Tennis

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The first Egyptian to win a WTA 125 title, the first Egyptian woman to win a match at a Grand Slam, the first Egyptian to reach a WTA final, the first Egyptian woman to crack the top 100 … Sherif’s extensive list of firsts achieved in 2021 earned her a nomination for the tour’s Newcomer of the Year award.

The Cairene finished her season ranked a career-high 61 in the world and will be searching for new heights as a new campaign gets underway this month in Australia.

Manon Ouaiss (Lebanon) – Alpine skiing

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The 21-year-old Lebanese has qualified for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, where she is set to compete in the slalom and giant slalom events.

Currently training at her base near Les 3 Vallées in France, Ouaiss enjoyed a strong 2020-21 campaign with four victories in slalom and giant slalom in Cedars and great showings at FIS events in Montenegro.

Farida Osman (Egypt) – Swimming

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Egypt’s most successful swimmer rebounded from a difficult Tokyo 2020 Olympics with some strong performances at the World Championships in Abu Dhabi last month, reaching the final in the 100m butterfly and the semi-finals in the 50m freestyle and 50m butterfly events.

The African record-holder, three-time Olympian, and two-time World Championship bronze medallist is looking to hit some best times in this upcoming season, with an eye on the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka in May.

Layla Al Khatib (UAE) – Swimming

At the tender age of 15, Al Khatib has already represented the UAE at a World Championship, thanks to the wildcard she received to compete in Abu Dhabi last month.

The teenage backstroker recently picked up two gold medals and a bronze at the Arab Swimming Age Group Championships in the UAE and is looking to take another step forward in her young career in 2022.

Updated: January 02, 2022, 5:09 AM
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