Ons Jabeur’s steady progress from year to year — up the tennis rankings, through the draws of various tournaments and, now, at Wimbledon — has carried her to a Grand Slam singles final, the first African woman and Arab woman to make it that far in the professional era.
The No. 3-seeded Jabeur, a 27-year-old from Tunisia, got past her good friend Tatjana Maria 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in an up-and-down semifinal at a sun-splashed Centre Court on Thursday.
“I want to go bigger, inspire many more generations. Tunisia is connected to the Arab world, is connected to the African continent. … I want to see more players from my country, from the Middle East, from Africa,” said Jabeur, who sat on her sideline chair and threw her head back after the biggest victory of her career.
“We didn’t believe enough, at a certain point, that we can do it. Now I’m just trying to show (we can). Hopefully people are getting inspired.”
On Saturday, she will face another player making her major final debut, No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina, for the championship. Rybakina, a 23-year-old who was born in Moscow but began representing Kazakhstan four years ago, overpowered 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep 6-3, 6-3 in the second semifinal.
“I already did a lot,” Rybakina said, “and it’s just time to enjoy.”
This is the first Wimbledon final since 1962 featuring two women both appearing in their initial Grand Slam title match.After a surprising first-round loss at the French Open in May, Jabeur is on quite a run: She has won 11 consecutive matches, all on grass courts, and 22 of her past 24. Since pro players were first admitted to major tennis tournaments in 1968, never had an African woman or Arab woman been to a Slam final.
Jabeur has been rising in the tennis world in recent seasons. In 2020, at the Australian Open, she became the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinals at a major. Last year produced all sorts of milestones: first Arab player to break into the top 10 of the men’s or women’s rankings; first Arab to win a WTA title; a quarterfinal at Wimbledon.
Wimbledon: Jabeur, Rybekina face off in final