As Ons Jabeur was about to start speaking to Sue Barker after receiving her Wimbledon runner-up trophy from the Duchess of Cambridge, the Centre Court crowd exploded into applause and gave the Tunisian an extended standing ovation.
In her speech, the World No.2 followed a theme that has dominated most of her press conferences, and her trailblazing career at large.
Throughout the Wimbledon fortnight, Jabeur has said she takes great pride in being an inspirational figure for Tunisians, Africans and Arabs, and signed off from the Championships by saying she hopes her message of hope and determination was coming across to as many people as possible.
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“I’m really happy that I’m trying to inspire many generations; I hope you’re listening,” the 27-year-old said Saturday during the trophy ceremony.
Spoiler alert: They were!
Jabeur’s historic run to the Wimbledon final, in which she became the first African woman and first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open Era, has garnered tremendous attention back home in Tunisia, and across the Arab world and African continent.
One player watching closely has been Egyptian Mayar Sherif, who is ranked No.50, and had to miss Wimbledon with a foot injury she picked up in the first round of Roland Garros.
Nearly two years younger than Jabeur, Sherif has been following in Jabeur’s footsteps and is just the second North African and Arab woman in history to be ranked in the Top 50, behind the Tunisian star.
How is the Minister of Happiness feeling as she leaves London?@Ons_Jabeur 🤗 | #Wimbledon pic.twitter.com/Vv6wjHym5A— wta (@WTA) July 9, 2022
“It’s unbelievable what she’s doing; this is the dream of many Africans and Arabs,” Sherif told wtatennis.com in an interview.
“But it’s only been just a dream for people. Hopefully after this result from Ons, people can start to think about this seriously, they can start to believe that this dream can be real.
“She’s raising the bar really, really high, and as someone who is within the competition, as an African, I want to catch up with her.”
But it’s not just Sherif who is drawing inspiration from the Wimbledon finalist.
Over the past two weeks, tennis went mainstream in Jabeur’s part of the globe.
People who never followed the sport could suddenly recite her Wikipedia page. Mothers were calling up their friends asking them how they could get their kids into tennis.
Politicians, actors, musicians, footballers and all sorts of celebrities from the Arab world were posting about her every day. One of them, superstar actress Hend Sabri, even turned up in her box for the final, which coincided with the first day of Eid Al Adha, the biggest Muslim holiday of the year.
“Thank you @onsjabeur,” Sabri wrote in an Instagram post ahead of the final. “Thank you for being who you are : a pure talent and a pure soul … thank you for making millions proud, thank you for making us believe. Thank you for believing,”
What a ride! 🙌— Ons Jabeur (@Ons_Jabeur) July 9, 2022
Thank you to everyone who supported me since day 1 of this journey: my parents, my husband, my coach and my team. Without you, this would not have been possible at all. I love you all so much #TeamOJ 🇹🇳❤️ pic.twitter.com/DThgYjSzZ5
During her match with Elena Rybakina, Jabeur could hear people in the crowd yelling Happy Eid between points.
Tunisian folk songs and football chants have followed Jabeur everywhere during these Championships, giving the All England Club a unique Arabic soundtrack so rarely witnessed in tennis.
When she finished her press duties in the media balcony Saturday, she went down to greet a massive group of her fans who were serenading her even in defeat.
“It's really amazing to see a lot of fans, not just from Tunisia but from the Arab world,” Jabeur said. “I know a lot of Muslims while I was playing were wishing me a happy Eid. Even when I was serving it was like, ‘Happy Eid’. It was really amazing to have them.
“I hope they're not really disappointed, but I'll try my best next time.”
‘Disappointed’ is far from what the general sentiment is like back home.
For the first time, people got to watch an Arab woman compete on the last Saturday of Wimbledon.
Before Jabeur came along, there had only been one Arab player ranked in the Top 100 and that is Tunisian ex-world No.75 Selima Sfar, who retired from professional tennis more than a decade ago.
Sfar, currently a commentator for beIN Sports, was one of the first to take to social media to share her thoughts on Jabeur’s latest milestone, congratulating her compatriot on a “magical and symbolic achievement” and thanking her for the “priceless lessons.”
“Thank you for showing that a DREAM can indeed come true, in fact that it can be even better than the best one we have EVER wished for,” Sfar continued.
“Thank you for the inspiration on how impactful role models like you can be. Your drive, commitment and unshakable desire for success has been a powerful experience for me to follow and watch.
“Thank you for making the impossible possible and believable, for more people and kids, to thrive, the way they are MEANT to.
“Last but not least, THANK YOU for the door you have opened for all on the BIG PICTURE.”
Jabeur was in high spirits during her post-final press conference and reiterated she has complete faith she would “come back and win a Grand Slam, for sure.”
She’ll be flying back to Tunisia in a few days to finally get a chance to celebrate what has been an incredible few months on tour, where she won her firstMasters 1000 crown in Madrid, lifted the trophy in Berlin and played doubles with Serena Williams in Eastbourne, before falling just short at Wimbledon.
“Our minister of sports said there is a huge surprise for me. I'm not sure what's going to expect,” she said, smiling.
Judging by the atmosphere a group of Tunisians were able to create at SW19, this is going to be one special homecoming party for Tunisia’s Minister of Happiness, Ons Jabeur.