It’s understandable when elite athletes measure their success or failure by wins and losses. Most of them set goals that are tied to records, numbers, rankings, or titles – it’s easier to strive for something that is quantifiable and concrete. Many fans, in turn, follow suit and view sport the same way; equating greatness with championship wins, and mediocrity with defeats. If you’re a champion, you’re supposed to win; if you didn’t, then you choked. If you’re an underdog that won just once, you’re a fluke … labels are slapped on athletes so fast and they often stick. I get it. If a sports fan is not invested in the outcome of a match or race or tournament then what’s the point of watching? Of course, wins and losses matter but every once in a while an athlete comes along and reminds us that sport can be much bigger than that. On Saturday at Wimbledon, Tunisian Ons Jabeur was bidding to become the first African-born player in history to win a Grand Slam singles title. As the No 6 seed, contesting her third major final, with a superior record on grass against an unseeded opponent in Marketa Vondrousova, Jabeur was considered the favourite. She had also knocked out four consecutive Grand Slam champions en route to her second Wimbledon final in a row. She got there the hard way and was expected to win by many pundits and fans. <a href="https://www.thenationalnews.com/sport/tennis/2023/07/15/heartbreak-for-ons-jabeur-after-loss-in-wimbledon-final/" target="_blank">She ended up losing in straight sets</a> and looked devastated and inconsolable when she addressed the crowd on Centre Court during the trophy ceremony and reporters later in her press conference. In victory and in defeat, Jabeur wears her heart on her sleeve – what more can a sports fan ask for? The always smiling Jabeur could not hold back her tears and many of those listening to her words from the stands or watching on TV sobbed along. In the locker room after the match, Kim Clijsters, who lost her first four Grand Slam finals before becoming a four-time major winner embraced Jabeur and cried with her. All over Twitter, fans and peers of Jabeur, alike, flooded our timelines with messages of support for the Tunisian, assuring her “your time will come”. In many ways, her time has already come and she’s in the thick of it right now. Jabeur didn’t have to win on Saturday to make history; as a Tunisian, African and Arab woman, she has already pulled off countless unprecedented feats. Before Jabeur, no Tunisian/Arab/North African-born tennis player – man or woman – had made it past the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam. None had won a WTA title, none had been ranked higher than 75 in the world, none had cracked the top 10, none had qualified for the WTA Finals. Even as a 16-year-old, she made history as the first Tunisian female to win a Grand Slam junior title. I spoke to two Moroccan teenagers who were contesting the girls’ singles and doubles events at Wimbledon this week – Malak El Allami and Aya El Aouni – and they both named Jabeur as their favourite player, and spent a good portion of our conversation discussing how she raised the bar of what could be possible for a tennis player from the region. They said they believe they can pursue careers in tennis because of her and noted how Jabeur’s determination has driven them to work hard to achieve their dreams. Those are just two of thousands of examples of young athletes following Jabeur’s rise and aspiring to follow in her footsteps. Because of Jabeur, there is a WTA tournament in Tunisia, bringing the sport at its highest level to young locals. Every time Jabeur suffers a heartbreaking loss then gets up the next day, trains, and steps on a match court to compete again is a lesson for all of us. <a href="https://www.thenationalnews.com/sport/tennis/2022/07/09/ons-jabeur-falls-short-in-quest-for-historic-title-as-elena-rybakina-wins-wimbledon-final/" target="_blank">She lost the Wimbledon final last year</a> then <a href="https://www.thenationalnews.com/sport/tennis/2022/09/10/iga-swiatek-beats-ons-jabeur-to-win-us-open/" target="_blank">made the US Open final two months later</a>. She lost that too, and had a health issue that <a href="https://www.thenationalnews.com/sport/tennis/2023/02/08/ons-jabeur-withdraws-from-dubai-duty-free-tennis-championships/" target="_blank">ruled her out of the Middle East swing</a> in February. She then <a href="https://www.thenationalnews.com/sport/tennis/2023/04/10/ons-jabeur-charleston-open/" target="_blank">won a title in Charleston</a> in April. She picked up a calf injury later that month that effectively ended her preparations for Roland Garros. She then <a href="https://www.thenationalnews.com/sport/tennis/2023/06/07/ons-jabeurs-french-open-journey-ends-at-quarter-final-stage/" target="_blank">went to Paris and reached the quarter-finals</a> before marching to the Wimbledon final. Her entire career has been a relentless pursuit of greatness in the face of adversity. After winning the French Open junior title in 2011, she spent six years grinding on the professional circuit before she managed to crack the top 100. “I think things take time with me,” said Jabeur on Saturday. “It wasn't meant to be this time. “Will definitely keep learning, keep being positive. I think that's the thing that will keep me going.” Jabeur may not be a Grand Slam champion <i>yet</i>. But her impact on an entire region alone suggests her achievements are far greater than that. Her legacy is already secured. That major trophy will be a nice cherry on the cake when it eventually comes.