At Ons Jabeur one highlight follows the next. On Sunday, the 27-year-old Tunisian won the tennis tournament in Berlin and thus the third individual title in her career. This week she is already in Eastbourne, where she will play in doubles alongside Serena Williams. The American makes an unexpected comeback after a year’s break.
The current third in the world rankings had to process the fact that Williams chose Jabeur as her partner for her return. “It’s incredible. I still can’t believe it,” she said on Sunday when she was still being celebrated by numerous compatriots in Berlin. Because of the next special challenge, she herself only had “one minute” to really enjoy the success in the Steffi Graf Stadium.
Jabeur’s development into a world-class player has been slow and marked by setbacks. As a junior she won the French Open in 2011, but she was not able to assert herself in the women’s competition for a long time. In 2016, she went without a single win on the WTA Tour and found herself ranked 193rd in the world at the end of the season. Five years later, she won the first WTA tournament by a Tunisian player on grass in Birmingham and entered the top ten in the world rankings in October of last year – no Arab tennis professional before her had managed that, neither in women nor in men.
In her home country she is called the “Minister of Cheerfulness”, the final in Berlin was a street sweeper there, at least that’s what the tournament organizers rumored. “A lot of people were probably watching. It’s great to have this support,” said Jabeur. Many Tunisian flags could be seen on the LTTC Rot-Weiss grounds last week, there were songs like in the football stadium and the Tunisian ambassador repeatedly stopped by the grounds.
Ons Jabeur herself was always able to inspire the audience in her interviews with a lot of humor and even earned a warm extra applause with the sentence recited in German at the award ceremony: “I love you, Berlin”. Shortly after the trophy handover and confetti rain on the pitch you could see them descending and then reappearing in the Hundekehlesee – together with numerous members of their entourage.
However, Jabeur is far from being a self-promoter. Hardly any other player is so popular with her colleagues. Final opponent Belinda Bencic, who slipped away at the end of the first set and had to give up at the beginning of the second set after subsequent treatment of her ankle, said: “You deserve this title, I don’t want to take this moment away from you.” Jabeur had previously worked with the Swiss sat on the player’s bench and she tries to comfort.
As a successful tennis player, she is also aware of her role model function, especially for women in her home country. “I’m trying. But it’s not easy to make it this far. If I can be an example of that, that would be nice,” she said. After winning a 250, 1000 and 500 event on the WTA Tour, she now has her next big goal: “I want to win a Grand Slam. That’s what I’m working for and that’s what I’m preparing for,” she said combatively.
But first there’s a bit of fun in Eastbourne before Ons Jabeur wants to make history at Wimbledon as well.