Trailblazer Ons Jabeur hopes her run to the Wimbledon final will inspire many others from Arab countries and the African continent to reach for the stars.
A 6-2 3-6 6-1 win over “barbeque buddy” Tatjana Maria in the semi-finals at the All England Club on Thursday put the Tunisian within touching distance of a slice of history.
There has never been a female singles winner of a grand-slam from an Arab country or Africa, but Jabeur is on course to break new ground in SW19.
Victory in one hour and 43 minutes extended the fine run of the third seed, who has now won 11 matches in a row on grass and will face Elena Rybakina in Saturday’s final.
Jabeur said: “I want to go bigger, inspire many more generations. Tunisia is connected to the Arab world, is connected to the African continent. The area, we want to see more players.
“It’s not like Europe or any other countries. I want to see more players from my country, from the Middle East, from Africa. I think we didn’t believe enough at a certain point that we can do it. Now I’m just trying to show that. Hopefully people are getting inspired.”
A maiden grand-slam title for Jabeur this weekend would be worthy of wild celebrations anyway but Saturday’s final will fall on the first day of Eid al-Adha.
Eid al-Adha, the second Eid, is known as the “festival of sacrifice” and Jabeur said its importance to Muslims is the equivalent of Christmas in the UK.
She added: “If I make it on that special holiday, one of my favorite actually, it’s going to be great.
“I always miss it. I always want to be with the family. It always reminds me like a child. I was having a great moment with my family that day. It’s like Christmas for you guys, it’s like similar for us.
“It’s going to be a special celebration, maybe after having my own barbecue maybe. We’ll have to enjoy it and hopefully we’ll enjoy it in positive vibes.”
Jabeur put one foot in the final by breaking her good friend Maria twice in the opener but saw the mum-of-two show trademark powers of recovery in the second to force a decider.
Maria, who gave birth to Cecilia last April, had never previously made the second week of a grand slam and pushed the Tunisian close before the class of the third seed shone through.
Jabeur produced a double-handed backhand winner with both feet off the grass in game one of the decider and she was able to break her 34-year-old opponent early before powering into the final.
“It feels amazing really. The kind of result I was hoping for. Now one more match, one more step to continue and hopefully get the title,” Jabeur said.
Defeat for Maria ended her remarkable run to the last four in SW19 in her 35th appearance in the main draw of a grand slam.
The German had never previously gone beyond the third round but pushed her friend all the way before they embraced at the net and Jabeur encouraged the Center Court crowd to applaud the world number 103.
Maria added: “I hope that I can send this message out that I have two kids and I’m on this stage. I think everything is possible. I’m 34-years-old with two kids and playing my first time semi-final in Wimbledon.
“It was amazing to play on Center Court today, but for sure, like any other match, it’s a little bit painful that I could not win at the end.
“We are really good friends. Ons is part of our family. It was really nice from her that at the end she wanted to celebrate with me even though it was her moment of her.
“For her, it’s also the first time to be in a grand slam final. I think it was her moment of her, but she wanted to celebrate it with me, what makes it also really special. She’s such a great person. She really deserves it. I’m really happy for her, too.”