Meet Ons Jabeur: The Tunisian tennis star preparing to make history at Wimbledon

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When Ons Jabeur was 10-years-old, she told her mother that one day she would buy her a coffee at Roland Garros.

Jabeur senior was a keen amateur at tennis and first gave her daughter a racket at the age of three, but ever she would have struggled to imagine that, two decades later, her daughter would be preparing for a third Grand Slam final, ranked at number six in the world.

The first of those finals came just a year ago, when Jabeur became the first North African woman, the first Arab woman and the first Muslim woman to make a Grand Slam final.

She was beaten by Elena Rybakina, but made it to another final at the Grand Slam final months later.

Her brilliant comeback win over Aryna Sabalenka on Thursday sealed her place in another final, and the star from a coastal town in Tunisia is on the verge of becoming the first African woman to win a Grand Slam title.

Ons Jabeur will play her second Wimbledon final against Marketa Vondrousova on Saturday

Ons Jabeur will play her second Wimbledon final against Marketa Vondrousova on Saturday

Her mother Samira also played tennis and first gave her daughter a racket when she was three

Her mother Samira also played tennis and first gave her daughter a racket when she was three

When Jabeur was 10, she told her mother that one day she'd buy her a coffee at Roland Garros

When Jabeur was 10, she told her mother that one day she’d buy her a coffee at Roland Garros

Jabeur grew up in the Tunisian coastal city of Sousse, an important waypoint in the Mediterranean sea since the 11th century BC, and it wasn’t long before she had a tennis racket in her hand.

She was coached from the age of four and at 10 was forced to train at a local hotel as her club had no facilities.

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It wasn’t an easy introduction to the sport but Jabeur was pushed on by her mother and took a leap of faith: Moving 90 miles to the capital Tunis hen she was just 12.

‘I wasn’t a rich girl, we weren’t a rich family,’ The 28-year-old told GQ Middle East in 2020, ‘I remember my mum travelling with me and taking me everywhere in Tunisia to go play matches and I have amazing memories from that. 

‘I didn’t want all that time and effort my mum, and my family, put in to go to waste.’ 

‘It was a big decision, it was very hard, but I had to take it, I had to go practice more and more, so I moved to Tunis and stayed with girls I don’t even know from different sports at this sports academy.’ 

It wasn’t long before Jabeur was playing on the international junior circuit, and in 2011 she won the junior French Open. It was the first Arab victory at a junior Grand Slam since 1964.

She began to gain momentum as an adult in 2013, as she moved in the top 200 in the world. Jabeur continued her steady rise through the decade before reaching the third round of the US Open in 2019, a performance that won her an Arab Woman of the Year award in the sport category. 

By then she had also married her husband Karim Kamoun, a former professional fencer who also acts as her fitness coach.

The world No 6 is on the cusp of becoming the first African woman to win a Grand Slam title

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The world No 6 is on the cusp of becoming the first African woman to win a Grand Slam title

She's married to Karim Kamoun, an ex-professional fencer who also acts as her fitness coach

She’s married to Karim Kamoun, an ex-professional fencer who also acts as her fitness coach

Kamoun (left) and Jabeur (right) pictured at her brother's wedding

The pair travelled to Doha, Qatar to watch Tunisia at the World Cup

Kamoun married Jabeur in 2015 and began working as her fitness trainer two years later

Jabeur broke into the top 50 in 2020 after reaching the quarter finals at the Australian Open, before adding third and fourth round finishes at Roland Garros and the US Open.

She was fast establishing herself as a key player in the women’s game and seemed to be breaking new ground with every tournament she played.

At Wimbledon in 2021 she defeated five-time champion Venus Williams to become the first Tunisian player to reach the tournament’s quarter finals.

She became the first ever Arab player to be ranked in the top 10 after winning at Indian Wells later that year.

Then at Wimbledon again more milestones fell as she reached the final against Rybakina, and was in ominous form as she took the first set 6-3.

It ended in heartrbeak, though, as her opponent produced one of the great comebacks to win the final 2-1.

A lesser player might have been crushed by the result, but Jabeur was thoughtful as she said in a press conference afterwards: ”I did everything since the beginning of the year to really focus on this tournament.

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‘I even have the trophy picture on my phone. But it wasn’t meant to be. I cannot force things. I’m not ready for it, probably, to be a grand-slam champion. I wait to look forward for the next one.’

They proved to be prescient words, as one year and one more more Grand Slam final later to book her place in the 2023 SW19 finals.

In a true full-circle moment, her quarter final victory came over Rybakina.

She faced heartbreak in last year's final as Elena Rybakina came from a set own to beat her

She faced heartbreak in last year’s final as Elena Rybakina came from a set own to beat her

Jabeur gained her revenge in 2023 with win over the defending champion in the quarter-final

Jabeur gained her revenge in 2023 with win over the defending champion in the quarter-final

She will face Marketa Vondrousova, who first reached a Grand Slam final when she was just 19

She will face Marketa Vondrousova, who first reached a Grand Slam final when she was just 19

Never one to do things the easy way, Jabeur again went a set down in her semi final against Sabalenka earlier this week, but wrestled the game back to force her way into a second Wimbledon final in a row.

It will not be a straightforward test against the impressive Marketa Vondrousova, who is ranked at number 14 in the world and made her first Grand Slam final when she was just 19, but Jabeur does go into the final as a slight favourite.

She now sits two sets away from become the first ever African woman to win a singles Grand Slam title.

The 10-year-old girl that promised her Mother a coffee at Roland Garros is starting to look pessimistic. 

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