world : Jabeur hoping it is third time lucky at Wimbledon

world : Jabeur hoping it is third time lucky at Wimbledon
world : Jabeur hoping it is third time lucky at Wimbledon

Monday 1 July 2024 10:32 PM

Nafeza 2 world - Jabeur had seemed in control of the 2022 final against Rybakina, having won the first set, but was then pressured into errors by her younger opponent.

The Tunisian returned to Centre Court 12 months on, but Jabeur revealed this week that she had a panic attack, external during the warm-up for last year's final.

She went on to lose 6-4 6-4 to Vondrousova and the 29-year-old wanted to highlight what pressure and wanting something "too much" can do.

"I feel it's important to send that message. Just be open about it, let it out. Don't keep it inside," she told BBC Sport.

"For me, I just like to share my experience with other young players so they know that as a professional tennis player, there are happy moments, there are sad moments, there are difficult moments and it's OK to have those.

"Just work with them and turn them from negative to positive feelings."

Jabeur, who had also lost the 2022 US Open final, has had more on her mind than just clinching her first Grand Slam title.

The defeat in last year's final also meant she had to rethink her plans to start a family.

"I always wanted to win a Grand Slam and maybe go and have a baby and come back again," she explained.

"So losing that final probably took that away from me.

"But at the same time, I think I was attaching having a baby with the Grand Slam a little bit, which maybe was not right to do. It's just a dream. And I came to my senses maybe the next Saturday, that it is what it is - and I'm looking forward to playing again."

After the heartbreak of losing the past two finals, could 2024 be third time lucky for the Tunisian star?

"That's what I'm hoping for," she told BBC Sport Africa on the eve of the Championships.

After a season blighted by illness, injury and a drop in form, Jabeur is seeded 10th this year.

She has also been struggling with a recurring knee problem over the past two years and, in a bid to prioritise her health, she has decided to miss the Paris Olympics amid concerns about playing on grass and hard courts either side of the Games.

But she has learned lessons from her two finals on Centre Court, and says she will be measured in her approach in south-west London this year.

"I will take it point by point, set by set and hopefully match by match," she said.

That will start in the first round against Japan's Moyuka Uchijima as Jabeur looks to become the first African or Arab woman to win a Grand Slam title in the Open era.

She has been dubbed the 'minister of happiness' by her army of Tunisian fans, but should she now be given a new role as 'minister of fun'?

Jabeur's personality and character has blossomed in recent years and she remains a hugely popular figure amongst tennis fans worldwide.

She sang with her supporters from the court at the French Open and is also popular with her peers - most recently seen dancing with third seed Aryna Sabalenka during a practice session at Wimbledon.

Spreading joy is now part of her identity.

"It is very important. I love just smiling and having fun," Jabeur said.

"I always say tennis is such an amazing sport, but one day it will stop and what's left of our memories is just the fun moments that we have. And I've tried to do that in every moment I have."

Jabeur also knows how big a role model she has become to her followers across Africa and the Arab world - many of whom travel to watch her at Wimbledon.

"Yeah, it's a good responsibility," she added.

"Their love is really important for me. The Tunisian and the Arab community here is really important.

"And I feel the love also from the whole crowds. It's so great to have this love. I feel fortunate to have it, and hopefully I can really do my best and win and make them happy as well."

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