Ons Jabeur, the biggest mascot of Arabian tennis in recent years, may have fallen to the quarter final hurdle in a grand slam for the second time in two years - but the bigger names will be wary of the 26-year-old Tunisian in future.
Three former Grand Slam title winners - five-time Wimbledon winner Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Iga Swiatek - fell to her variety of groundstrokes till the second seed Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka ended Jabeur’s historic run at Wimbledon with a 6-4,6-3 win on Tuesday.
Jabeur, though, took a lot of positives from the remarkable last few weeks which saw her become the first Arab woman to win a WTA event - the grasscourt tournament in Birmingham - not to speak of the highest ever WTA ranking of 24 for a Arab woman. Selima Sfar, the barrier-breaker before her from Tunisia, had a best-ever ranking of 75 and couldn’t proceed beyond the second round of any of the slams.
“I’m honoured,” she said about representing Africa at such a huge profile global sports event.
“Also trying to represent a whole continent for me is very important. I try to behave well and give the right example for the young generation, for people following,’’ said Jabeur, who enjoys a major celebrity status in Tunisia with the President calling up to congratulate her. “She is our queen! A queen who is bringing happiness to the people of Tunisia during a very difficult time,” Nejmeddine Lakhal, Tunisian ambassador to the United States, told Washington Post in an interview.
“We’re going through tough times in Tunisia with COVID and everything. I’m glad that I’m giving positive thoughts to people there.”
Jabeur departs having lost in her second Grand Slam quarter-final - the 2020 Australian Open being the previous one - a “barrier” she hopes to get across next time.
However, she has already done wonders in her goal to use her exploits to encourage young Arab women - especially North African - to take up the sport.
“I know that since 2011, since I won the junior Roland Garros title, I know that there are many girls wanted to play tennis and are dreaming more,” said Jabeur.
“I feel like I’ve been carrying a great message trying to represent my country as best as I can.
“I think right now they are dreaming even bigger and they want to be here, they want to be me and follow in my steps,” she added.
Karolina Pliskova (8), Czech Republic, def. Viktorija Golubic, Switzerland, 6-2, 6-2.
Aryna Sabalenka (2), Belarus, def. Ons Jabeur (21), Tunisia, 6-4, 6-3.
Angelique Kerber (25), Germany, def. Karolina Muchova (19), Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-3.
Ashleigh Barty (1), Australia, def. Ajla Tomljanovic, Australia, 6-1, 6-3.