If ever there was a season to celebrate the rise of tennis in the Middle East, this would be the season. I feel it on a personal level. But it is clearly also happening on a larger scale.
This week was very special for me, because I was able to participate on our soil in the Yasmine Open, the first WTA tournament held in Tunisia.
It is incredible that there is such an event in my country. Many children and adults dream of seeing me play in Tunisia. The fact that I am here and that my countrymen can see me alive is an opportunity to inspire everyone, especially the new generation, who must believe that one day they can be in my place, tour like the Tunisians and in the big play tournaments.
Of course, this is also a great moment to give a positive image of Tunisia to the world. Sport has an almost unique power to inspire personally and on a large scale.
It is not easy, as my career and the lives of all athletes show. But many of the deepest rewards remain, in defeat as much in victory. A few weeks ago she lost the final of the US Open against Iga Swiatek. While this may seem like a sad moment, believe it or not, I haven’t had the time to reflect on what I’ve accomplished at the Grand Slam this season. She instead focused on the Tunisian championship and its importance for the country and the region.
However, it has been a busy year. I still can’t believe I made it to the Grand Slam finals in a row, at Wimbledon and New York. Now there is another big tournament, the WTA Finals, which will be my next big goal. I can definitely say I’m a little tired. It’s the end of the season and I really feel that way. The most important thing for me is to rest after these big tournaments and not feel overwhelmed, especially emotionally, because international tennis demands a lot from you in this regard.
It is important that you give me a chance to celebrate. And while focus must be maintained, being surrounded by my family here at the Jasmin Open is a good opportunity to reflect on the deeper sporting meaning of this year.
I have received many questions about my heritage and how I feel about the impact it has had on Arab sports so far. I don’t want to be involved in this kind of competition with other players. I just want, as players in the region, to generally unite and push each other to do better, and wish each other the best possible results.
I try to do my part, especially by giving hope and inspiration to as many players as possible. However, it is an enormous task, and I still cannot fully grasp its magnitude. In just one week, I was overwhelmed by the number of talented young players here in Tunisia who came to me to talk about their goals and ambitions.
This enthusiasm in the region is not just limited to tennis players. Recently, Moroccan golfer Ines Lalkalech, who last month became the first Arab or North African to win a title on the Women’s European Tour, reached out to me to thank me for being her inspiration. It was a touching moment. I didn’t quite understand that tennis could also help people in other sports. Apparently there are only two Moroccan women playing golf on LET, and one of them texted me. It gives me extra motivation to do more.
I was also very happy to see Egyptian Mayar Sherif win her first WTA title this month in Parma. It was amazing to see her overcome obstacles, especially when it came to her difficult injury recently. I hope you will join this effort to encourage more players from Egypt and the region. His country is already a successful international center for squash.
Returning to the world of tennis, it is surprising that two Arab women are among the top 50 players in the Women’s Tennis Association. It reminds us of the “Three Musketeers” of the Moroccan trio of Hicham Arazi, Karim Elmi and Younes El Aynaoui who excelled in men’s tennis. So it’s good to see women now in the lead.
It is worth noting that the UAE plays an important role in promoting sporting success in the region. After the US Open last month, I was delighted to learn that I had been named the Arab Sports Personality of the Year at the Fatima Bint Mubarak Women’s Sports Awards in Abu Dhabi. I feel at home in Abu Dhabi and have a strong connection there, so I am excited to be back again to play the Mubadala World Tennis Championship next December.
I would even say I feel the corruption in the city. Last year, even though I was a last-minute substitute for Emma Raducanu, a crowd of support came out and people really cheered me on. I think it was one of the first occasions in which I began to realize how much I had influenced the Arab world and its sport. This time, with more notice than I get in, I hope the stadium is full.
I think my biggest goal for 2023 is to win a Grand Slam and be number one in the world. But whether it happens or not, there is always an inspiring and crucial side story to promote the sport in the region, in which I am proud to be a key figure.
Published: October 7, 2022, 6:00 p.m