Tunisian Selima Sfar is proud to be flying the flag for Arab women at Wimbledon as she contests the Invitation Doubles tournament for a fifth consecutive year.
Sfar, who is the first Arab woman to crack the top-100 and retired from professional tennis in 2011, was invited to play the Legends event for the first time in 2014. She partnered nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova on three occasions, lifting the title together in 2016, and played alongside four-time major champion Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario in 2017.
This year, Sfar has teamed up with Croatian 1997 Roland Garros winner Iva Majoli at the All England Club, and they beat Tracy Austin and Anne Keothavong in their second match on Thursday, after losing their opener to Kim Clijsters and Rennae Stubbs on Tuesday.
Sfar is one of three Tunisians to compete at Wimbledon this year, with Ons Jabeur making the second round in women’s singles, after earning a wildcard by winning the $100k Manchester title in the build-up, and Malek Jaziri falling in the first round in men’s singles.
The 41-year-old Sfar paid tribute to Wimbledon organisers for inviting her to take part in the Invitation Doubles tournament each year and is grateful to be representing Arab women at SW19.
“I have my greatest memories in this tournament, my birthday is always here, and the fact that they were the first Grand Slam who accepted me here and kept inviting me and being very nice and I think it’s very important that they thought of inviting an Arab, representing this part of the world, this region this culture. They opened the door to that and it’s amazing. For me it was very important,” Sfar told Sport360.
“They welcomed me in the Legends draw and they still do every year. The way they offered a wildcard to Ons who won a Challenger also. They say whoever wins the Challenger gets a wildcard, how many Grand Slams do that? Because when you say that you open the wildcard for anyone, any nationality, from any country and that’s also a sign of being very open-minded.”
During her professional career, Sfar, who is now a commentator for beIN Sports, played in the Wimbledon main draw four times, reaching the second round in 2001, 2002 and 2005. She made the doubles quarter-finals alongside Ekaterina Makarova in 2008, eventually losing to Lisa Raymond and Sam Stosur.
“I love this event. I know everybody says that, most of the players say that Wimbledon is magical because of the tradition, because of how beautiful it is, the way they take care of players, everything is just magical there, we are so spoilt,” said Sfar.
The 33-year-old American has long been conscious of the importance of nutrition and diet, but he has been allowing himself a regular chocolate treat during his run to the semi-finals.
“After each win throughout these 10 days, I’ve had a KitKat. I’m not going to change that now,” Isner said.
It is a routine which has served Isner well, the ninth seed winning the battle of the ace specialists against Milos Raonic in four sets in the quarter-finals.
Three-time champion John McEnroe has tipped Isner to win.
Anderson is a man that Isner played several times on the US college circuit and he leads their professional head-to-head 8-3.
Isner added: “There could be a little mental aspect in our match. I say that because our rivalry goes back way before the pro tour.
“We’ve been lined up against each other for about 14 years now, because he left Illinois when I left Georgia. We’ve been doing it ever since.
“For me this match-up, and I think for him as well, is especially cool. It’s a very nice spotlight on college tennis that one of us, no matter what, is going to be playing in the Wimbledon final.
“We’re duking it out in the semi-finals. The two of us went to college, did it a different route. It’s pretty cool.”
Anderson caused the shock of the men’s tournament when he edged out eight-time winner Federer in a Court One marathon, winning 13-11 in the fifth set on Wednesday.
McEnroe feels that will play into Isner’s hands, telling ESPN: “I think the legs will be a little shot for Kevin in the semis, so I like John’s chances there.”
Waiting for the winner will be either three-time champion Novak Djokovic or two-time winner Rafael Nadal.
Djokovic, back from injury, is looking close to his best after a four-set win over Kei Nishikori in the quarter-finals while Nadal overcame Juan Martin del Potro in five.
The pair have played each other an incredible 51 times, with Djokovic leading the head-to-head by just one.
He won their last Wimbledon meeting, in the 2011 final, but retired injured when trailing Nadal in a semi-final at the All England Club four years earlier.
“There is no one other match in the history of tennis that is played more than our match,” said French Open champion Nadal.
“That’s a big thing. We always played in important stages, important places.
“Friday is another important match against an opponent that is one of the most difficult ones that you can face. He’s playing well.”
The German, who was runner-up to Serena Williams two years ago, triumphed 6-3 6-3 on Centre Court and is now one win away from a third grand slam title.
This semi-final was billed as attack versus defence and it was the solid, reliable manner of Kerber that prevailed as she let an erratic Ostapenko, who was going for winners almost every shot, hand her a swathe of free points.
Ostapenko won the French Open in 2017 by playing in this manner and knows no other way, but she had an off day and, despite hitting 30 winners, it was her 35 unforced errors which cost her any chance of progressing.
Kerber, who spent 34 weeks at world number one between 2016 and 2017, could be set for a rematch with Williams if the eight-time champion can get past Julia Goerges in the second semi-final.