Tennis fans in Bahrain will be glued to their television screens from 4pm today to see Tunisian star Ons Jabeur take on Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina in a historic Wimbledon women’s final on Centre Court.
World number two Jabeur, 27, will become the first Arab player to ever play in a Grand Slam final while it will also be a first-time final appearance for Rybakina, 23.
Among those in the kingdom eagerly awaiting the start of the game is Jabeur’s compatriot, Kacem Ben Jemia, who is the technical director at the Bahrain Maritime Sports Association (BMSA).
“I can’t wait for the final to start,” Jemia, who has been in his current role since 2001, told the GDN. “I have known Ons personally since 2010 and have seen all her games in this tournament. She’s playing fantastically well and I think she’ll win!”
Jemia, 54, intends to watch the match with his sports-mad family, including wife, Sondes Ahmed Amri, who has played for both the Tunisian and Bahrain handball teams, son, Jassem, 13, who plays football for the Muharraq junior team and daughter, Kenza, 23, who plays for a local basketball team.
Another son, Aziz, 20, will be watching the final in Murcia, Spain, where he also plays football for a local club while studying for a degree in sport and sciences, Jemia added.
Meanwhile, GDN journalist Abdul Razak Sassi, a Bahraini citizen of Tunisian origin, has also been closely following Jabeur’s exploits at Wimbledon and is quietly confident that she will create history by becoming the first Arab player to win a Grand Slam title.
“She has provided so much joy to millions across not just the Arab world, but across the globe as well, by being such an exceptional ambassador for the region,” he explained. “I really hope she wins because she has been playing like a champion.”
The joy Sassi referenced was very much in evidence in Tunisia on Thursday as citizens celebrated yet another historic milestone achieved by their hero, whom they have affectionately dubbed the ‘Minister of Happiness’, after she beat close friend, Germany’s Tatjana Maria in the semi-final to become the first Arab player to ever qualify for a Grand Slam final.
Jabeur has probably earned the sobriquet because of the passionate way she plays tennis: her joy, when she wins a point, is infectious; she plays with intense emotion and she appears to give herself completely to the game when on court.
And she won the hearts of millions around the world when, following her victory over Maria, she grabbed her friend’s hand and led her on to the court, leading the applause for the mother-of-two, who had become only the sixth woman in the Open era to reach a Grand Slam semi-final after reaching the age of 34. It was Maria’s first-ever semi-final in 46 Grand Slam appearances.
But Jabeur will have her work cut out for her in the final against Rybakina, whose height and booming serve helped take her to a comfortable 6-3, 6-3 victory over 2019 Wimbledon champion, Romanian Simona Halep on Thursday.
“Rybakina is very strong,” Sassi warned. “She’s going to make it very tough for Ons just because of the advantage she has in height and strength. But I think Ons has the benefit of more experience so that will work in her favour.
“Also, Ons has worked really hard all through her life, believed in herself and has never given up. This is her chance to win a Grand Slam title, that too at Wimbledon, and I believe she can do it.”
Jemia, who has stayed in constant touch with Jabeur and sent her a text message yesterday wishing her good luck for the match, agreed with Sassi.
“She’s been playing wonderful tennis,” he asserted. “She’s come along so much as a player, she’s progressed so much, technically, over the years. I think she’ll win. I’m pretty confident she will.”