“Ons Jabeur is living the dream that Original 9 had 51 years ago”
When Billie Jean King and her “Original 9” colleagues broke away from the tennis establishment 51 years ago to lay the foundation for professional women’s tennis, her dream was to build a tour that would accept any player from all over the world who was good enough to compete.
As Ons Jabeur made history this week as the first Arab tennis player to make the top 10, King felt her vision was coming true again in the form of the feat without precedent of the Tunisian.
“It ties into our 1970 dream and Ons is actually living the dream. Today’s players are living our dream we had for them, ”said King. The National in an exclusive interview on Wednesday.
“When we started the tour there were three things we wanted to accomplish. One of them is that any girl in the world, if she’s good enough, would have a place to compete, and that’s what we thought.
King first met Jabeur earlier this month in Indian Wells, where a few players met the American legend and WTA founder, and received signed copies of his recently released memoir. All in.
They spoke on a variety of topics, including Jabeur’s need for consistency, and King noted a fun connection between them in Jabeur’s first WTA title triumph this year in Birmingham, where King won his last trophy at 39. , in 1983, before retiring from the sport.
Jabeur first caught King’s attention a year ago after the Tunisian took part in an ITF video campaign honoring the competition’s renaming from Fed Cup to Billie Jean King Cup.
In a conversation we had 13 months ago, King was curious to learn all about Jabeur and she then asked for her phone number to contact her.
King called Jabeur on the morning of her 2020 Roland Garros third round match against Aryna Sabalenka, which amply motivated the North African to surprise and become the first Arab woman in history to reach the eighth place. final in Paris.
“I just knew I had to call him,” King said. “I call players, not just her, or we meet through people, and I just thought that was important.
“She has such a desire to do well for the Arab people, and it came out very strong and very clearly.
“She tries to represent the Arab people and I’m very attached to what you do off the pitch, not just on the pitch. So I think I really admired that part of her. The reason I love is because it’s always easy when you both think the same, because I feel the same, represent people, I love team play , I like to represent my country, I like the fact that it is something bigger than you, and I see it in her; I see this similarity in her that I admire.
“Because I think we have to use our sport as a platform to do good and I think she is, and I love that. I love that she is so proud to be Arab, and that she represents the Arabs; she also wants to make a difference for women’s tennis.
“So she has a lot of things to do that she’s trying to help make this world a better place and I admire what she’s trying to do and I would love to see her succeed.”
King has watched many Jabeur games recently and joked that she wished she could coach him so that she could help him with a few aspects of his game. She admires the young woman’s character and sense of humor. the 27-year-old, which she can say translates into his “playfulness” on the pitch, and thinks there’s more to come from Jabeur, who landed 8th in the world rankings this week.
“She can improve a lot so I don’t think 8th at all will be her best, I think she has the capacity to go a lot higher,” King said.
“And I think as a kid, or when she was younger and maybe still to this day, some of the things I read is that she says she always wanted to be # 1 . So she’s going in the right direction, that’s for sure. “
As Jabeur continues her historic exploits lower in the standings, Egyptian Mayar Sherif is also making progress as she peaks at a career-high No.64 in the standings this week.
With two Arab women ranked in the top 65, interest in the sport in North Africa is at an all time high and there are rumors of a possible WTA tournament coming to Egypt in the near future.
“When you get a top player it changes everything, it’s an inspiration,” King said.
“If you can see it, you can be, and that’s what they’re starting to see. They start to see that this is really happening to two of their own, and then all of a sudden they’re like, ‘Why not me? If they can do it, I can do it ”. And it happens with a lot of young people, I remember watching Althea Gibson for me, it was my shero. These are things that are happening, and great things will follow. “
King believes sports authorities in the Arab region need to work hard on accessibility, to make sure tennis is accessible to everyone, not just people with financial means. She says coaches will need to be trained and locals will need to invest in the talented people who move up the ranks.
“It brings great pride to the country, so it is an investment in the people of their country,” she said.
“They’re going to help make this world a better place, not just on the pitch, but off the pitch. You have to see bigger than someone who just gets a ranking; how does it influence? Everyone is an influencer, and she influences others, both (Jabeur and Sherif) inspire others.
“I think if the people who have a lot of money and have a lot of power and think about this issue, tennis it’s a world sport and it’s just an amazing sport because you travel all over the world and learn from each other and it helps build champions on and off the pitch, and it also helps them learn to lead, teaches them to be a good person.
Updated: October 22, 2021, 7:11 AM