*On Monday, Tunisian Ons Jabeur became the first Arab woman since Selima Sfar in 2008 to win a Grand Slam main draw match. Sfar, the only Arab woman to crack the top-100, penned this open letter to describe how it feels to see someone finally start matching her past achievements.*
I’ve been asked by many how I feel about the fact that another Arab woman is on the way to achieve what I have achieved in the past and maybe surpass my own feats.
The way the question was phrased by many was actually quite funny.
The truth is, if I want to be very honest, a few years ago it would have disturbed me. Or rather it would have disturbed my ego. Today, wisdom and maturity make my perception of it totally different, beautifully different. And it feels lovely!
A legacy is a new path you opened by achieving something novel and meaningful, and I believe that something is truly meaningful only when it also serves others.
Being the first Arab woman to go through that path is certainly a source of pride, but the biggest honour is in fact to see other Arab women using it.
Ons is the first one who had the courage to do that and I’m so grateful to her.
I sacrificed a lot and dove into the scary unknown at a very young age to achieve it – it would have been sad to know that all my struggles and experiences to create this path ended without serving others.
The message is: If I did it then it is possible others can. From that perspective anything is possible. Her victories feel like mine and the ones after her will feel the same too. We are all connected in this path.
A real legacy is one that doesn’t end with you, on the contrary, it’s a path which keeps growing even after you are far gone. I believe we are here to – through our experiences – help and transfer to others the possibility of transcending us. That is a healthy way of describing evolution; new generations are here to do better and go higher.
Life is about progress. It is like a relay race, but this one goes for generations. Ons is the first one who reached out and opened her heart and hand to catch it and it’s overwhelming for me to see, it’s a connection.
It’s the start of a long and beautiful relay race – the relay being an inspiring message of belief and faith especially for Arab women. That’s why I am truly honoured and grateful for being the first to unlock that promising door. Now I can enjoy observing the ride for many beautiful generations to come.
Let the flame never stop growing!
He more than held his own against world No9 Kei Nishikori before falling in four sets on Tuesday, but Thanasi Kokkinakis admits he wanted to quit tennis just a week and a half ago as the young Aussie continues to fight away doubts while recovering from injuries.
Playing in his first Grand Slam match since the 2015 US Open, Kokkinakis bowed out of the French Open first round with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, 6-4 to Nishikori. No competitor enjoys defeat but the 21-year-old can take so much from those four sets against the Japanese No8 seed.
Just a few days after considering walking away from the sport, Kokkinakis got to play in front of a buoyant crowd on Court 1 at Roland Garros, and seriously tested a top-10 player. Still it’s the pain in his body that keeps surrounding him with conflicting feelings.
“I was saying to my coach, you have some sessions where I’m doubting myself so much – I felt like quitting after one of the sessions honestly,” Kokkinakis told Sport360 following his first round exit.
“I was really frustrated a couple of times. That was like a week ago, a week and a half ago.
“But since that point, I had one more bad session after that. But then since that I was playing really well in practice, and that’s just the ups and downs of a tennis player.
“But I was serious, I was thinking about it for a few weeks, I was like ‘I don’t know how much my body can take after every practice session’.
“I’m not feeling great early in practice sessions, so – again that’s the biggest thing, my shoulder’s been good, I just have to sort out my hips, see what’s going on there.
“It’s real frustrating. But then obviously matches like today, with a good crowd. And seeing that I felt like 90, 95 per cent of them wanted me to win, so that’s how I felt anyway, and I think that showed by the roar after.
“Matches like that make me think ‘hang on, you’re not that far away, if you just stick to it, you’ll be there’.”
Kokkinakis, who has been fighting off a series of injuries dating back to 2015, played his first singles match since the Rio Olympics last week in Lyon. It was a first round loss to Denis Istomin.
It was after that defeat that Kokkinakis thought about quitting.
“Again I put high expectations of myself because I know how well I can play when I’m feeling okay,” he explains. “I thought about it (quitting) a couple of times and I was pretty serious, I said it to my coach. I usually never crack the shits in practice but I broke a couple of racquets, I was frustrated, that’s very unlike me and I haven’t thought about that for a while.
“So to have a match today (against Nishikori) like that and to play pretty well considering what I’ve done in practice, or the lack of practice I’ve had, it’s been good.”
Kokkinakis had to deal with shoulder, abdominal and groin injuries over the past 18 or so months, and while he says his shoulder – which required surgery – is now fine, it’s his hips that are causing him a bit of trouble.
“I know there’s match soreness but there’s a little bit more than soreness I think going on at the moment,” he says of his hip issues. “I’m going to try to sort that out, it could be normal, I’m not sure. I’m going to have a couple of lighter days. I haven’t played four sets in forever.”
For the grass season ahead, Kokkinakis plans on playing s-Hertogenbosch, Queens, The Boodles event and Wimbledon, if his body allows him to.
For now, he can take positives from being competitive again on a tennis court, and from the support he got from the crowd.
What about the support from the locker room? Surely many players were happy to see him back after such a lengthy absence?
“Yes for sure, it’s been good from the people. But if I’m being 100 per cent honest, a lot of people say that, but then at the same time it’s like one less person they have to worry about,” he says. “So I don’t know if I’m looking at it the right way, but as a competitor, yeah you have your friends on tour, obviously I’ve got a couple that I’m closer with than others – it’s good seeing they’re happy you’re back but at the same time they don’t want you to beat their player as well, or them, so it works a bit of both ways – that’s how I look at it anyway.”
Rising German star Alexander Zverev insisted his first-round defeat to Fernando Verdasco at the French Open was “nothing to be tragic about”.
The 20-year-old was tipped as a possible title contender at Roland Garros this year but crashed out prematurely to the veteran Spaniard in a tie held over from Monday.
Ninth seed Zverev slumped to a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 loss on Tuesday as he struggled to adjust to the windy conditions on his first appearance on Court Philippe Chatrier.
Zverev was blunt in his assessment of his performance, which came just over a week after demolishing Novak Djokovic to win the Rome Masters.
“I played absolute sh**… It’s quite simple,” said Zverev, who followed elder brother Mischa in exiting Paris in the opening round. “You sometimes play bad. It’s just this is our sport.”
Zverev broke into the top 10 for the first time after becoming the first player born in the 1990s to claim a Masters title.
The German is also the only player aside from Rafael Nadal to win multiple clay-court tournaments this season, but he has never advanced beyond the third round at a Grand Slam.
The world No10 beat Verdasco in straight sets in Madrid earlier this month, however the 33-year-old Spaniard held his nerve in Paris as Zverev committed 50 unforced errors.
“There are no regrets. I mean, what can you do? In Rome I played fantastic, I won the tournament. Here I played bad, I lost first round,” said Zverev. “That’s the way it goes. I’ll prepare the best I can for grass.
“But the world doesn’t stop now. I mean, I’m still number four in the race to London and I’m still doing okay this year. I won three tournaments so far. It’s not the end of the world, okay? I lost a match, but, I mean, pretty much everybody loses a match every single week they play. So it’s nothing to be tragic about.”
Zverev will return to Halle, where he finished runner-up a year ago, alongside Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem as part of his grass-court preparations ahead of Wimbledon.
But the German admitted taking a short break was the first thing on his mind after a busy month.
“I will definitely take a few days off. It’s been a rough few weeks for me, in a good way obviously, but physically very, very tiring.”
Verdasco is competing at his 14th Roland Garros and 56th consecutive Grand Slam and will meet Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert next.
“I’m very happy of the way that I played and being able to beat a player like Alexander that is one of the players in such a great form,” said Verdasco, who has reached the last 16 of the French Open five times.
“It was a great victory for me, but this has to be not only like a point just to stay and to enjoy. Of course, I have to enjoy, but not just to enjoy, also to keep going. To believe in myself and keep fighting and keep playing the same way that I did against him the next match. And try to make a good tournament here.”