Why should Ons Jabeur be Tunisia’s flagbearer at the 2021 summer Olympics?

Less than two weeks ago in Birmingham, Ons Jabeur finally became the first Tunisian, Arab and North African to win a WTA title after defeating Daria Kasatkina in straight sets. On her Centre Court debut against the 2017 Wimbledon champion, Garbine Muguruza, Ons kept writing history and played one of her best tennis matches in her career, as she displayed a combination of talent and mental toughness in order to recover from one set down and clinch the win in the most brilliant fashion. Along the way, Ons set a Centre court record by winning 16 points in a row. The dream continues for the 26-year-old Tunisian who will face former Grand Slam champion Iga Swiatek on Monday for a place in the Quarterfinals.

Beyond how the tournament will unfold, Ons Jabeur’s story is a one to be told to future generations all over the world. The Tunisian talent grew up practicing and playing tennis in her home country. With that, we should refer to the limited resources and infrastructure available in addition to other social dynamics that can create significant barriers in front of a female tennis player. Other than that, Tennis in Tunisia has always been regarded as elitist and out of reach sport, resulting in a limited popularity by de facto. Therefore, it became complicated for young players to believe that they can make it to the highest level while growing up in Tunisia. Before Ons Jabeur, the also-Tunisian Selima Sfar was the highest-ranked Arab female player in history, reaching the 75th spot in the WTA ranking (16 July 2001); however, Selima left Tunis at the age of 13 to live and train with Nathalie Tauziat in Biarritz, France. Hence, we are indeed witnessing a historical moment in sports considering Jabeur’s identity and all that she means to Tunisia, the region, and the game. After reaching the Quarterfinals in the Australian Open in 2020, Ons proudly called herself a “100% Tunisian product”. As a child, Jabeur’s trained in a multi-sport academy in Tunisia from 12 years old. She found comfort at home, where she decided to live permanently. Today, the Tunisian legend is making history almost every time she steps on a tennis court. Ons Jabeur’s achievements this year coincides with the occurrence of Tokyo 2020 summer Olympics. The list of former Tunisian flag bearers includes Oussama Mellouli, Heykel Megannem, Anis Chedli, Noureddine Hfaiedh, Omrane Ayari, Iskander Hachicha, Fethi Baccouche and Salem Boughattas. There has never been a female athlete who had the honor to bear the flag of Tunisia despite having had brilliant female athletes who definitely deserve recognition. This year, Ons Jabeur cannot be in a better position to hold this honor, as she is literally bearing the country’s flag around the world and inspiring the next generation to make a breakthrough. As a matter of fact, the Tunisian trailblazer is the 1st Arab woman to:

– Win a junior Slam (2011 RG)
– Make a Slam 3R (2017 RG)
– Make a Slam QF (2020 AO)
– Win a WTA singles title (2021 Birmingham)

– Make a Wimbledon 4th Round (ongoing)
– Rank inside the Top 70 – Currently highest-ranked ever at No.24.


Writer: Mehdi Rezgui


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