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'Minister of Happiness' Jabeur still an inspiration despite loss

July 16, 2023 00:06 IST
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IMAGE: Despite losing the Wimbledon final again, Ons Jabeur remains an inspiration for her fans. Photograph: Toby Melville/Reuters

Tunisians thronged cafes hoping to watch local heroine Ons Jabeur win the women's singles title at Wimbledon on Saturday but Czech Marketa Vondrousova had other ideas.

Sixth seed Jabeur ended up as runner-up, just like last year, after putting on an error-strewn performance against the unseeded Vondrousova who won 6-4 6-4.

Jabeur's fans were disappointed but said the player dubbed the Minister of Happiness remained a huge inspiration in her homeland.

"We were all waiting for Ons to win this title, which she deserves after a distinguished journey, but the defeat is painful," Amine Khawaja, one fan watching in Tunis, told Reuters.

"It's a painful loss but we are confident that Ons will be crowned with a title next year," said another fan, Wael Ben Amara. "We are proud of the Minister of Happiness of all Tunisians and Arabs," he added.


Eight-year-old Aline El-Hechmi, who practices at the tennis club where Jabeur began her career, said: "I love this game and Ons made me more attached to it.

"I feel sad when Ons loses, as if I was the one playing, but now I feel happy and proud of what she is achieving. I want to become the next Ons," she added.

IMAGE: Fans watch the Wimbledon final in Sousse, Tunisia. Photograph: Jihed Abidellaoui/Reuters

Jabeur, now 28, began playing tennis at the age of four at the Tennis Club in Hammam Sousse.

"Since her early years in tennis, we have seen her technical capabilities that distinguished her from her peers," Anis Jgham, who was her assistant coach at the beginning of her career, told Reuters.

Jgham said that Nabil Mlika, Jabeur's first coach, made her train with boys to develop her skills and performance.

"Ons possesses such a strong personality and high techniques since she was young," he added, saying her rise through the sport had led to an influx of new players at the club.

"Everyone dreams that his son or daughter will be the next Ons Jabeur," he said.

Ahmed El-Hechmi, the father of a young female player, described Jabeur as an icon of Tunisia and the Arab world.

"The brilliance of Ons made tennis a popular game that the Tunisians follow in neighbourhoods and cafes," El-Hechmi said.

Nabiha El-Abed, the mother of a young player at the club, said: "Ons often yearns for her hometown and her first club; she visits us whenever there is an opportunity and meets our children with love."

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