Ons Jabeur: Tunisia’s ‘Minister of Happiness’ brings hope and joy

In Tunisia, Ons Jabeur is lovingly known as the Minister of Happiness.

For the 12-million-strong African country that finds itself in an economic and refugee crisis, Jabeur brings hope and joy.The 28-year-old from the historic town of Ksar Hellal has come a long way from the time she followed her mother to local tennis courts as a toddler. In a country where football is king and tennis once lurked far behind in popularity, Jabeur has won hearts with her success and warmth.

“How can you not love that smile?” said Slim Belhaj, a British Tunisian man who is a self-proclaimed “super fan” of the Wimbledon finalist.

“No disrespect to other players, but they are so focused on the result that they don’t smile very often,” he shrugged, saying that Jabeur’s ability to combine emotions with skill make her unique and universally admired.

“Even her opponents love her and she is very good friends with most current and former players,” he added.‘Great to see a Muslim woman excelling in sport’
Indeed, every time the Tunisian progresses to the last stages of a major tournament, players are quick to express their support and excitement.Former world number one and six-time grand slam champion Kim Clijsters was quick to tweet: “Onsome win!” after Jabeur booked her place in the final.

Even Aryna Sabalenka, the second-seeded pre-tournament favourite that Jabeur beat in the semifinal, tweeted: “Big congrats to @onsjabeur on an incredible performance. I hate you now, but u know I love u anyway! good luck in the final, you got this”.
Sasha Bhat, a mental health director at the National Health Service in England, said Jabeur’s display of warmth for opponents and respect for her own values sets her apart.

“It’s great to see a Muslim woman excelling in sport and not being afraid to be faithful,” Bhat said.

“I saw her play live – she is an amazing player and so fun to watch,” she added.

When Jabeur lost last year’s Wimbledon final to Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, she was visibly distraught and admitted as much during the course of her press conferences this year.

“That match is still too painful for me to watch,” Jabeur said after her win over the same opponent in the quarter-final on Wednesday.

“Wimbledon is the one tournament I have always wanted to win, so I am hoping to do it this time,” she said with her trademark glowing smile.

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