MELBOURNE, Australia — Ons Jabeur is the first Arab woman to make it to a Grand Slam singles quarterfinal, and she’s proud to lead the way.
“I’m trying to inspire many young generations back home either in Tunisia or the Arabic world, especially in Africa, which is amazing,” she said. “I’ve been practicing in Tunisia from the age of 3.” She added, smiling: “I’m a 100% Tunisian product.”
The 78th-ranked Jabeur beat 27th-ranked Wang Qiang, who upset 23-time major winner Serena Williams in the previous round, 7-6 (4), 6-1 on Sunday. The 25-year-old Jabeur will play American Sofia Kenin on Tuesday in the final eight. Jabeur said she had plenty of scholarship offers to go to college in the U.S., but “I wanted to really go pro directly.”
She attended tennis academies in Belgium and France but she decided that returning to Tunisia was a “good option.”
A French Open junior champion in 2011, Jabeur expected quick success on on the elite tour.
“It was a little bit frustrating just after the juniors because I was expecting to go better,” she said. “So many players I played with in juniors, I see them, they’re like top 50, top 20.”
She’s on her way up the rankings now, after making the last eight in the season’s first major. She’s gaining attention with each match in Australia, and keeping her family awake.
“I called my mom right away, she was really, really happy,” Jabeur said of her win over Wang. “My father as well, I think he was crying. Also my two brothers, the one in Germany and the one in France. The family, everyone was behind me. They couldn’t go back to sleep again.
“I’m happy that I have this support because we’ve been through rough times – now it’s finally paying off.”
DJOKOVIC’S FAMILY FAVORITE?
Novak Djokovic is one of Serbia’s favorite sons. But is he his son’s favorite player? Apparently, it’s still up for debate.
Djokovic has has won 16 major titles, including a record seven in Australia, and is into the quarterfinals of a major for the 46th time – second only to Roger Federer. He recently pulled tens of thousands of Serbian fans to stadiums in Brisbane and Sydney as he helped his country win the inaugural ATP Cup team tournament.
His 5-year-old Stefan has started playing tennis – he also likes martial arts and football – and father and son practice together sometimes. Asked about Stefan’s tennis development, Djokovic said: “He likes to play with me, and with his best friend. He doesn’t like to play with too many other people.”
Asked who Stefan’s favorite is, not even the 32-year-old Djokovic was sure.
“He still hasn’t expressed who his favorite player is. I hope I’ll be working on becoming his favorite player.”
Margaret Court game to Rod Laver Arena, and was seated in a row with the man they call Rocket during Novak Djokovic’s match on Australia Day. The two tennis greats are celebrating Grand Slam milestones in back-to-back years.
Last year, Laver celebrated the 50th anniversary of his calendar-year Grand Slam – his second – in 1969. He also won all four of the tennis majors in 1962.
Court is marking 50 years since her first Grand Slam. Court won all four majors in 1970 during a dominant sequence when she captured eight titles in nine majors, starting with the Australian Open in 1969 and finishing with the Australian Open in ’71.
She holds the all-time record for most Grand Slam singles titles with 24, one more than Serena Williams, including 11 after the beginning of the professional era. She also holds the record for most Grand Slam titles with 64, including titles in in singles, doubles and mixed doubles at the same major twice.
While her tennis achievements are unquestionable, some of Court’s views since becoming an ordained minister in 1991 and founding a Pentecostal church in Perth four years later have been divisive.
Tennis Australia confirmed last November it plans to honor the 50th anniversary of the 1970 Grand Slam, but stressed that Court’s anti-gay views “do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.”
Court caused controversy in 2017 by saying the devil was to blame for young people questioning their sexuality and wrote a public letter urging Australians to vote against same-sex marriage. Since then, same-sex marriage has since been legalized in Australia.
Maureen Connolly in 1953 and Steffi Graf in 1988 are the only two other women to have won all four Grand Slams in the calendar year.