Ons Jabeur, Tunisia
Jabeur is a true trailblazer for women’s tennis in the MENA region. The Tunisian is the highest-ranked Arab female in the game’s history, currently standing at 55 in the world – a figure that is likely to rise even further in the future based on recent form. She demurely laughed when asked about the prospect of becoming the “Naomi Osaka of Africa” – Asia’s only World No1 to date – in the build-up to the 2019 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, but the question posed to the outgoing 24-year-old was anything but ridiculous. So much of what she has done to date in her ground-breaking career points to a special player. Back in 2011, Jabeur became the first Arab female to win a junior Grand Slam title when she lifted the girls’ singles trophy at the French Open in 2011. At Rolland Garros, again, in 2017, she became the first Arab lady to make the third round of a major. Last October in Moscow, a first Arab female appearance in a semi-final or final at a WTA tournament was recorded – beating three top-eight seeds along the way. She is so far ahead of the MENA field, that no other woman from the region is ranked within the top 400. What makes her journey to the cusp of the top-50 all the more special is the fact she barely had any immediate role models to inspire her. Only compatriot Selima Sfar has ever reached comparable heights, peaking at No75 all the way back in 2001 when Jabeur was seven. Her flamboyant style and extrovert personality provides ample inspiration for the next generation, while support from President President Beji Caid Essebsi to push her to become “one of the greatest players in the world” shows how intrinsic she’s become to the Tunisian sporting scene. Jabeur has already done tremendous things – with the promise of much, much more to come.
– Jabeur has set a target to enter the world’s top 30 in the immediate future.
– She narrowly missed out on a second third-round appearance at a major during Wimbledon last year, losing 5-7, 6-4, 9-7 against Katerina Siniakova.
– Jabeur keeps family close, hiring husband Karim Kamoun as her fitness trainer.
– A career-best 2018 actually began in disastrous circumstances with a 0-5 record.
– Since she turned pro in 2010, she’s earned more than $1.1 million.
Did you know…
At the age of 13, Jabeur left the family home in Monastir and moved to join the Tunisia national team.
“Yeah, it’s inspiring to see how players can inspire a country or a continent. For me, I’m really happy to represent Tunisia. I’m trying to give my best, to behave good on the court, to try to give good example for the young generation who want to achieve what I’m doing right now.” – Ons Jabeur
Manal Rostom, Egypt
Manal Rostom’s passion for empowering women is magnetic. Whether it be through her inspirational social media channels or just in general conversation, she is the type of person who needs to be heard because you know that what is being said is significant. The force of her words are backed up by the weight of what she has achieved. The Egyptian has climbed three of the world’s highest mountains (Kilimanjaro, Kenya, Elbrus) and completed three gruelling athletic endeavours having raced at the Dubai Marathon, China Wall Marathon and New York City Marathon. She has raised funds for Syrian refugees and refugees across the Gulf in addition to supporting Autism charities while also helping to build the first ever Pediatric Oncology Unit in Palestine. There is genuinely too many initiatives to list but you can appreciate just how influential Rostom is to women – covered or uncovered. She has used her notoriety to break down barriers and defy stringent societal rules that prevent women from fulfilling their aspirations and taking part in an active lifestyle. These and many more reasons are why Nike saw Rostom befitting of becoming the global face of the Nike Pro Hijab.
– Rostom founded the Facebook group Surviving Hijab, a community of almost half a million members that aims to empower hijabi girls.
– In March, Rostom has set her sights on Everest as she will lead a group of 12 women ascending to base camp.
– To a gain a measure of her impact, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg met with and praised Rostom for her incredible work through the Surviving Hijab page.
Did you know…
The Nike trainer actually left behind a lucrative career in clinical pharmacy to fulfill her true passion.
“Women’s bigger mission in life should be achieving their dreams and making change to the world, women need to seek and follow their passions.” – Manal Rostom
Nour El Sherbini, Egypt
If you need to gauge the popularity and impact of Nour El Sherbini then you need only see that she was one of the top trending topics in Egypt earlier this month. The 23-year-old had just edged out a thriller with Nour El Tayeb to be crowned the 2018-2019 PSA World Champion and the squash-mad country reacted with typical euphoria. Indeed, world No2 El Sherbini and her compatriot and world No1 Raneem El Weleily are two of the Egypt’s biggest stars. And El Sherbini is just getting started despite having achieved so much in her career already. That victory in Chicago was the Alexandrian’s third world title, ensuring she joins an exclusive group of just five female squash players to have reached the mark. It’s a remarkable feat considering she is still just 23 years old and her ascent is mirroring that of the sport with that title triumph seeing El Sherbini take home $70,000 in prize money, the richest ever reward in squash. There is plenty more to come as her fascinating summit battle with El Weleily is set to dominate the sport’s narrative. But these are two wonderful ambassadors for squash and their proud country.
– It’s not a massive surprise to see El Sherbini so successful considering she was the youngest ever World Junior Champion back in 2009 when she claimed the title at just 13 years old.
– Her success in Chicago was preceded by a stunning march to the J.P. Morgan Tournament of Champions in February.
– Forbes’ Middle East released its 2019 “Arabs 30 under 30 List” and cover star El Sherbini is one of seven Egyptians to feature alongside the likes of football icon Mohamed Salah.
Did you know…
Like most Egyptians, the 23-year-old is a huge football fan and when not on court competing or training, she is watching her treasured team Al Ahly in action.
“She (El Sherbini) is part of the reason why I’ve been training so hard because of how she is changing the game and what she’s bringing to it. But I also didn’t like the way she showboated and played so amazingly against me in the US Open. It was borderline cocky and I wanted to get my own back for that.” – Laura Massaro, 2018 (Source: The Telegraph)