Nine-year-old Lina Chedi (L) poses for a picture with her mother Ibtissem Treimech (C) ahead of competes at a local tournament at the Tennis Club of Tunis in the Tunisian capital on July 15, 2023, on the day of Tunisian player Ons Jabeur's Wimbledon final. Image Credit: AFP

Tunis: At a sporting club in Tunis, young girls enthusiastically hit yellow tennis balls across the court in the hope of one day making it to Wimbledon, like their idol Ons Jabeur.

As the tennis star bids to become the first African or Arab woman to win a Grand Slam singles title on Saturday, a tournament was underway earlier in the day on at the Tennis Club of Tunis in the Alain Savary neighbourhood, near the Tunisian capital's downtown.

On the dozen sunny courts, surrounded by large trees, Tunisian boys and girls vigorously compete in several matches surrounded by their families.

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Ibtissem Treimech, the mother of one player says, "when they see Ons Jabeur ... succeeding as a finalist, the children and parents are inspired, and the parents encourage their children to play tennis".

In a country where football reigns supreme, Jabeur has become a national icon and sparked a new found enthusiasm for tennis over the past three years, especially among young girls. Like Jabeur, many of them come from working-class backgrounds.

"I am capable of becoming like Ons Jabeur and participating in Grand Slam tournaments like Wimbledon and Roland Garros," Lina Chedli, a nine-year-old tennis player and Ibtissem's daughter, told AFP.

Yasmine Ben Mabrouk, also nine, has no doubts over her own talent.

"I think I will become a great tennis player like Ons Jabeur, and I will participate in very big matches," she said.

Not far away, 10-year-old Emna Bartagisse says she will "become better than Ons Jabeur."

Jabeur defines herself as a "100 percent product of Tunisia", and her fans praise her for her dynamic game, which includes drop shots and approaches to the net, and her sense of camaraderie.

The star continues to push the limits, despite a sometimes difficult period following a series of recent injuries to her wrist and calf.

Before Saturday's final at the All England Club, in plush south-west London, Jabeur said she had "learned to be very patient and to accept everything that has happened to her regarding injuries."

From the suburbs of Sousse, a seaside resort town in Tunisia, Jabeur is adored by fans and spends time after each match signing autographs and taking selfies.

Since she came into the spotlight in January 2020 at the Australian Open, becoming the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final, the soon-to-be 29-year-old has become a source of national pride for Tunisia.

More recently, she was nicknamed the "Minister of Happiness" for her ability to uplift the country grappling with serious economic and political crises since the power grab by President Kais Saied in the summer of 2021.