Tunisia’s Ones Japier made history at Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON, England — Enough waves of good feeling swept through Center Court Thursday afternoon that they grew complicated to extract, no one with a heart would think. Suddenly, one strong embrace is in the web they’ve accumulated: the latest possibility of an impossible story, the expansion of opportunity into new parts of the world, the rising performance of a sportswoman and a mother of two who believes in other women. You can get some more buzz from her.

Ons Jabeur, 27, defeated dear friend Tatjana Maria of Germany 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 to become the first Arab woman and the first African woman to reach a Grand Slam final. She and Maria, 34, shared a long hug at the net, after which Jabir, eschewing the usual court-only winner’s curtain call, led Maria out by the hand with her, prompting a standing ovation from the crowd. Jabir praised Maria in an on-court interview, among other things, for reaching her first Grand Slam semi-final after two deliveries.

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It lit up new worlds within the world – if Jabir had not already done so by winning a second major in Madrid this year and reaching world No.2. It helped set up a Nations of Nations final that would have looked spectacular a generation ago: Tunisia vs. Kazakhstan. That’s because Jabir will play in Saturday’s final against Elina Rybakina, the 23-year-old Russian who won the Kazakh title in 2018 and dominated 2019 champion Simona Halep in the other semifinal 6-3, 6-3.

“I want to be big and inspire many more generations,” Zabeer told his news conference. “Tunisia is connected to the Arab world, connected to the African continent. Area, we want to see more players. It’s not like Europe or other countries. I want to see more players from my country, from the Middle East, from Africa. At a certain point we don’t believe that we can do that. I think. Now I try to show it. I hope people get inspired.

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Tunisia, a North African nation of 12 million with a rich history in soccer and the Olympics, was a hotbed of light in the tennis world when Zabeer picked up a racket at the age of 3 with the encouragement of his mother, Samira, in his birthplace of Ksar Hellal. Close to the Mediterranean coast. By the age of 9, Zabeer had moved with her family to Sousse, an hour away, and the girl told people she was aiming to win the French Open someday.

“Everybody was laughing at me,” he said Thursday.

At 13, she moved to the capital Tunis to train at a national sports academy, and by 16, she had won the French Open junior singles title. By the end of 2017, he had reached the top 100; By the end of 2020, the top 50; And at the end of 2021, in the top 10, he joins sports stars such as four-time Olympic medalist Mohammed Kammoudi (men’s track and field), London 2012 gold medalist Habiba Ghibli (women’s steeplechase) and Rio de Janeiro’s top in the history of his country. Not to mention the 2016 bronze medalist Marwa Amri (Women’s Wrestling), and the Tunisian men’s soccer team, which is going to the World Cup for the sixth time. Zabeer joined in with a brilliant game, a whole toolbox of shots (all on display on Thursday) and an essence that made her something else: endearing.

Maria referred to him at various times as “such a great person”, “a wonderful person” and “a really open person”, and as the quarter-finals ended on Tuesday, the Czech Republic’s Marie Bouskova welcomed Jabir with arms wide open. Before the hug. “He’s number two in the world,” Maria said, “and he’s still the same person he was years ago.”

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In her country, she has a nickname: “Minister of Happiness.”

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“Yeah, I mean, it’s nice that they call me that,” he said Thursday. “It’s really unbelievable. Maybe they’re thinking about the Minister of Happiness because it’s funny [an] A real minister calls me, ‘Hello, minister’. It’s funny. Times are tough at times in Tunisia. Watching my matches, they always say that sport brings people together. I am glad they follow me. They motivate me to do better. I hope I can keep it [minister] Title forever.”

In her first Grand Slam semi-final after two previous quarter-finals, it seemed almost grim to see her up against 103rd seed Maria, who considers Jabur “a part of the family”. So when they finished, after Zabiur played the best third set that could summon a strong mind — 10 winners, three unforced errors — they hugged and said, “I’m so happy for you,” Maria said. They had their moment together rather than apart, and Maria waved away amid appreciative cheers.

“Now she has to make me a barbecue,” Zabiur quickly told the crowd, “to make up for all the running.” Also: “Would love to see Tatjana like this on the court, no more playing.” And, with a rousing cheer: “I am proud to be a Tunisian standing here today. I know they are going crazy in Tunisia right now.

And then the friendship and the athlete continued, because Zabir talks about Maria: “If I had not seen her two children, I would have said that she never had children. It’s amazing how she moves on the court. It inspires a lot of women.

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“Yes, I hope I can send this message,” said Maria, “I have two children, I am on this stage. I think everything is possible. I am 34 years old, with two children I am playing in the semi-finals for the first time at Wimbledon … Even with family, you Get a career and you can move on.

Then, back to the winner’s point: “I mean, she’s such an inspiration, yes, to so many women on this planet.”

She, Jabeer, has also topped her original climb on the climb. Here he talks about his mental coach, meditation, and how to improve breathing. “I talk a lot about the emotions, it’s nice to get away from all the stress,” she said. “It’s very important.” She spoke Thursday about childhood heroes Kim Clijsters, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Andy Roddick, as well as recent mentor Billie Jean King.

“She would always tell me ‘one ball at a time’ and focus on that,” Japier said, “and I always remember her during a match if I’m behind in the score or something like that.”

However until the previous Wimbledon, when she reached the quarter-finals after defeating Venus Williams, Carbine Muguruza and Ika Sviatek, she did not live up to her Wimbledon dream. (The French Open, you know.) Then on Thursday he took a decisive set in the semifinals and roared to 5-0 in just one game. Then she sits down and wipes her face and adjusts her headscarf as the chair umpire says, as is customary after replacing it with “Time”.

She walked out, and after two games, he could have meant time for new parts of the world — or time for another forward like King.

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