Exclusive: Every second I wish for peace in Gaza, says Arab tennis icon Ons Jabeur

The first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final, Jabeur spoke to Khaleej Times ahead of her first match at the Australian Open


Rituraj Borkakoty

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Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur. — Facebook
Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur. — Facebook

Published: Sun 14 Jan 2024, 5:30 PM

Last updated: Tue 16 Jan 2024, 10:41 AM

It was after winning a match in her last competitive tournament last year that Tunisian tennis icon Ons Jabeur broke down as tears rolled down her face.

Those were not tears of joy for Jabeur, the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam final, after she avenged her Wimbledon final defeat against Marketa Vondrousova at the WTA Finals, the most prestigious tournament in tennis after the four majors.

Moments after clinching the match point against Vondrousova, Jabeur was fighting to hold back the tears during an on-court interview.

The mental wounds inflicted by the war in Gaza were too fresh for someone who is affectionally called the ‘Minister of Happiness’ for bringing joy to Tunisia and the Arab world with her groundbreaking exploits in tennis.

Jabeur, after being overwhelmed with emotion, made a passionate appeal for peace and humanity from the court, offering a part of her prize money from the tournament to the victims of the Gaza war.

Watch the full interview below

Now, two months later, Jabeur is gearing up for the Australian Open in Melbourne where she is hoping to end her Gland Slam heartbreak with a triumphant run.

Having lost three Slam finals, the 29-year-old is desperate to win the first Major of her career.

Tunisia's Ons Jabeur hit a return during a practice session in Melbourne on Saturday. — AFP
Tunisia's Ons Jabeur hit a return during a practice session in Melbourne on Saturday. — AFP

But as she hopes for the perfect start to her New Year at the Australian Open in the latest bid to make tennis history for the Arab region, Jabeur says she can never stop praying for the people in Gaza.

“I have seen this (Israel-Palestine) conflict since I was young, it’s heartbreaking and not just every year, but honestly every second I wish for peace (in Gaza),” Jabeur told the Khaleej Times during an exclusive interview over Zoom.

“I pray for people in Gaza to live in peace. It’s very sad and, you know, I try to help as much as I can with medical aids, with food, with resources that maybe they don’t have there, so I (do) whatever I can.

“I wish peace in the region, and hopefully this will end soon because it’s heartbreaking.”

More than 20,000 people have been killed in Gaza after the conflict started on October 7 following a deadly attack by Hamas in Israel.

Since then, Gaza has been crippled by Israel’s retaliation with civilians in the Palestinian city facing an acute shortage of food and medical supplies as they live under the constant fear of Israeli missile attacks.

As an elite athlete, Jabeur feels lucky to be able to offer some help to people going through one of the worst humanitarian crises in the decades-long Israel-Palestine conflict.

“I try to help, but I feel like it’s not enough, you know, I always do my maximum, but I cannot even imagine how they are living, it’s very tough,” she said.

“It’s not something that has just happened this year, it’s been 75 years of hell I should say.

“And, you know, the maximum I will help, the maximum I try to tell people to help. I feel like I am doing something, but nothing I could do would help enough I feel.”


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