As journalists we are expected to be emotionless. We’re not allowed to cheer in the press seats, we’re not meant to have favourites, and all that must be reflected in our unbiased writing.
It’s a system that is achievable but can be tested from time to time. Not the unbiased part – I try to be as neutral as possible always – but the rest of it.
At the end of the day we are humans, and it’s only natural to be drawn to certain characters that we cover 11 months a year.
You can be drawn to them because of a story they once told you that struck a chord, or part of their journey you relate to the most, or because you like the way they hit a tennis ball, or any other reason. And of course you sometimes find yourself rooting for a player just because they’re from the same country as you are.
I rarely am in that situation since most Egyptian tennis players aren’t ranked high enough to feature in tournaments I attend – there are a few exceptions – but I do follow all Arab players closely and have become invested in the careers of some of them.
Today was a day I could not be a robot. I sat at my desk in front of my monitor watching Ons Jabeur, a young Tunisian whom I’ve followed since she was 15, put together a dominant display of tennis to upset the sixth-seeded Dominika Cibulkova. I sighed, I screamed, I covered my face, I forgot for a short while that I was a journalist.
I got looks from some people around me but I did not care.
You see, beyond the fact that Jabeur is one of the most likeable people on tour and is someone I am close to, I am in a position to really understand the magnitude of her achievements and the impact it can have on the young girls and boys of the Arab world. Not just the youngsters. Jabeur making noise with her results on the global stage might perhaps knock some sense into the sports authorities of our countries that only focus on football and ignore individual sports.
It can show parents that sport can be a profession and that the typical path of high school followed by university is not the only way to go.
It can show the world that Arabs and Muslims are not just the ones portrayed in the news, they are successful professional athletes, ambassadors, and fighters.
Other countries may have elite athletes in spades – the Arab world does not. And the ones we do have are not given enough attention.
So when I choose to make a big deal of Jabeur becoming the first Arab woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam, I may be deserting my role as a robot, but I am also fulfilling my duty as someone who can educate the world of the significance of her achievement.
Today I was not a robot. And I’m proud of that.
1 – Ons Jabeur is the first Arab woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam in singles thanks to her win over Dominika Cibulkova.
10 – years since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had last lost in a Grand Slam first round. On Tuesday, he crashed out to French Open debutant Renzo Olivo in a match that was suspended for darkness from the previous night. This is just the third time Tsonga has lost in a Grand Slam opening round.
52 – winners and 56 unforced errors from Oceane Dodin in her three-set defeat to Svetlana Kuznetsova.
85 – Rafael Nadal won a remarkable 85 per cent (17/20) of the points on his second serve in his straight-sets demolition of Robin Haase. He dropped just THREE points on his second serve.
“I knew it was going to be hard. It was going to be crowdy.”
— Renzo Olivo created the perfect English word: Crowd + rowdy = Crowdy
“Last week I won my first-ever clay tournament. And today I lost at the French Open. It’s the paradox of tennis.”
— Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after his first round exit
“Quite honestly, I really don’t give a damn what she says.”
— Garbine Muguruza when asked to comment on Margaret Court’s homophobic statements.
Ons Jabeur bt. Dominika Cibulkova  6-4, 6-3
Playing in her maiden Roland Garros main draw, and against a top-10 player for just the second time in her career, Jabeur got her first top-10 victory with a dominating display against the sixth-seeded Cibulkova. Besides the deft drop shots and the 30 winners Jabeur unleashed on her far more experienced opponent, the Tunisian dropped just two points on her first serve throughout the match.
Bethanie Mattek-Sands’ cherries outfit, yay or nay? Personally it reminds me of Pacha nights in Ibiza I’d like to forget, but maybe that’s just me!