'I've worked hard for this', says history-making Jabeur
London (AFP) –
Ons Jabeur's historic Wimbledon campaign saw her reach the women's quarter-finals on Monday, beating Poland's 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 in their fourth round match.
The 26-year-old is the first Tunisian woman to reach the last eight at Wimbledon and will face Belarus second seed Aryna Sabalenka who defeated Elena Rybakina 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.
Sabalenka will be playing in her first Grand Slam quarter-final.
Jabeur celebrated victory with a fist pump and a yell of delight but for once she was not a lone Tunisian voice as some spectators burst out into song.
"Tunisians are everywhere, I got to say," she said.
"Yeah, they were singing actually a football song. I felt the need to sing with them also.
"I felt so happy that I wanted, like, to hear more. I was doing like this to hear them (cupping a hand to one ear)"
Jabeur's exploits in the past few weeks have give huge momentum to her mission to encourage more Arab women, especially North African, to take up the sport.
She admitted, though, that to get to where she is now has taken a lot of resilience to overcome setbacks.
"Maybe one of them was 2018, I started really bad the season, winning no matches," she said.
"I was doubting myself a lot. I think early in my career, after the juniors, when I didn't see the results that I wanted, when I was seeing the juniors that I played with breaking the top 50, top 40,it was very difficult for me.
"I've worked hard to earn my place here."
- 'Carry this message' -
However, with her maiden WTA title under her belt -- the first Arab woman to achieve that -- and now her run to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon she could not have done more to raise the profile of herself and her broader goal.
"It is very important to me," she said.
"I have seen it, heard it, a lot of times coming here on tour from where I come, I need to gain my respect either with the players or anyone around here.
"I just want to give the example for many generations coming from North Africa, from my country, from the African continent, that it's not impossible, that we can do it.
"I'm trying to carry this message for a very long time. Hopefully it is working."
Jabeur showed great poise to stay in the match after she let slip a 5-4 lead and serving for the first set only for the Pole to reel off three games on the bounce.
Swiatek, after a flat opening, had taken note of a young Polish fan holding up a board inscribed 'Jazda Iga' ('Come on Iga').
"It was a great match and I had to stay calm rather than get angry when I failed to close out the first set as getting angry would not have helped my cause," said Jabeur.
"Today I decided to change my game a bit as everyone knows I am doing drop shots and being aggressive was key today."
Jabeur never looked back once she had got over the loss of the first set.
Breaking her 20-year-old opponent in the first game of the second set set the tone for the rest of the encounter.
Indeed such was her dominance that Swiatek at one point having been out-witted by a Jabeur drop shot smashed the top of the net angrily with her racquet.
© 2021 AFP