Ons Jabeur on verge of tennis history but has weight of Africa on her shoulders

It’s one thing to have the weight of a country on your shoulders. For Ons Jabeur, it’s an entire continent.

At Wimbledon last year, the Tunisian trailblazer became the first African and Arab woman in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam final.

She won the first set and was on the verge of more history but her opponent, Elena Rybakina, came roaring back to deny Jabeur her maiden major title.

It was fitting, then, that Jabeur would meet Rybakina at Wimbledon again this year, getting revenge in the last eight before booking her place in Saturday’s final.

That has allowed Jabeur to have a second shot of writing her name in the history books as she bids to become Africa’s first Grand Slam women’s singles champion.

Not only that, but if she does lift the trophy at this year’s Championships, Jabeur will also become the first Arab Grand Slam winner across both men’s and women’s tennis.

‘For me there is one goal: I’m going for it,’ Jabeur said. ‘I will prepare 100% per cent. Hopefully I can make history not just for Tunisia, but for Africa.’

Like Jabeur, Vondrousova is seeking the first Grand Slam title of her career and has also played in big finals – with a runner-up finish at the French Open in 2019 before a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Vondrousova has normally found it more difficult on grass than Jabeur but has made tweaks to her game and everything has clicked for her this year with the 24-year-old beating four seeded players in a row on her way to the last four.

It will be a fascinating encounter between two stars who are known for their drop shots and slices and Vondrousova has admitted that she sees being a left-handed player as as advantage against Jabeur, who plays with her right.

Whoever wins, Wimbledon chiefs can breathe a sigh of relief that there will not be a Russian or Belarusian women’s champion.

The All England Club banned players from those nations from last year’s Championships amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and tournament organisers were concerned over the idea of the Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton, handing this year’s trophy to a Russian or Belarusian.

Belarus star Sabalenka crashed out in the last four, though, meaning the 2023 champion will be a Tunisian or a Czech, as Jabeur and Vondrousova look to come out on top in a women’s singles final that will be historic no matter the outcome.

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