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Fans hail new beginning for Newcastle United and Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Everything was ready. Those party hats. The chips and dip. The cans. And then, nothing. The party had to be called off. But 18 months on, the biggest celebration the city of Newcastle has seen in years is into its fifth day and shows no signs of slowing down. Mike Ashley’s 14-year reign at…

Fans hail new beginning for Newcastle United and Saudi Arabia

DUBAI: Everything was ready. Those party hats. The chips and dip. The cans. And then, nothing. The party had to be called off.

But 18 months on, the biggest celebration the city of Newcastle has seen in years is into its fifth day and shows no signs of slowing down.

Mike Ashley’s 14-year reign at Newcastle United is over after Saudi’s sovereign wealth fund PIF, Amanda Staveley’s PCP and the Reuben brothers completed the much-delayed $410 million takeover of the club.

The party was back on, and to say the Geordie fans have been keeping the neighbours up would be an understatement.

Newcastle United supporters celebrate the sale of the club to a Saudi-led consortium, outside the club’s stadium at St James’ Park in Newcastle upon Tyne on Oct. 8, 2021. Photo by Oli Scarff / AFP)

“We’ve got our club back,” supporters, waving Saudi flags, sang outside St James’ Park. “We can dare to hope again,” Alan Shearer, arguably Newcastle’s greatest player, posted on Twitter.

Halfway across the world, supporters in the Middle East are also excited for the club.

Radio and podcast presenter Peter Redding, a long-time Newcastle season ticket holder now based in Dubai, sums up the feelings of many.

“After witnessing the exciting and exhilarating times under Kevin Keegan, most Newcastle fans and myself felt helpless watching over the last 14 years under Mike Ashley’s reign,” he said. “Newcastle United is the pivotal regime of a city both, physically and mentally, it’s all anybody ever talks about.”

 

 

“To be under exciting new owners who share that passion with a clear vision is more than exhilarating,” he added. “Firstly they have given us our club back, and judging by the party scenes in the city after the announcement, this is just the beginning for Newcastle and Saudi Arabia.”

Joe Morrison lived a life most Newcastle fans could only dream off from 2001 to 2005. For three years under Sir Bobby Robson, and then two under Graeme Souness, he was the club’s Head of Media.

From mingling with the coaches and players to watching training sessions and matches, he was always close to the action.

Now a renowned television presenter in the Middle East and Asia, he looks back on that happy time wistfully.

A pedestrian passes a Newcastle United football club-themed mural in Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England on October 8, 2021. (Photo by Oli Scarff / AFP)

“We were in the Champions League when I was there, and we’ve never been back since,” Morrison said. “That just goes to show you how far the club had fallen. Even before Bobby Robson we were in Europe and when you have that regular diet it’s a real loss when it’s suddenly taken away.”

Those happy days could soon be back.

“It was the last time the club had a glow about it,” he said. “After Sir Bobby, that glow faded away, the lustre was gone.”

In 2005, Morrison moved to the Middle East, eventually becoming the presenter of ART’s coverage of Premier League football, and has since seen the proliferation of football culture in this part of the world. One thing however remains constant.

“How do you get the world’s best players playing for your team? You’ve got to have big bucks, it’s as simple as that.” 

For Morrison, the first point to address is a new manager.

“I’d be looking at the likes of Zinedine Zidane,” he said. “Why? Because he’s a big-name manager and when you don’t have Champions League football, you need to have a manager who a player would come and play for. Someone they would recognize, some they would appreciate, and Zidane ticks off all those boxes right now.”

Having to wait till January to strengthen the squad is no bad thing, according to Morrison, as it will allow the new owners to take their time and scout the right players.

“Someone like Jan Oblak, the Atletico Madrid goalkeeper, would be fabulous,” he said. “And up front you have a very unsettled Harry Kane, who may have not been allowed to leave Spurs last summer, but I’m sure will be allowed to leave this summer, maybe even in the January window. Shore up the back and make sure you’re not conceding goals, make sure you’re scoring goals, they’re always the most pressing problems for any new owners.”

For Dubai-based Newcastle fan Mohsin Khan, the most important aspect of the new take-over was the departure of the old owner.

Newcastle United’s new director Amanda Staveley (R) and husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi (L) talk to the media on Oct. 8, 2021, after the sale of the football club. (Photo by Oli Scarff / AFP)

“The overriding feeling is relief, the primary thing for me was getting rid of Mike Ashley,” Khan said.

He accepts that fans of other clubs will be “envious” and hopes that the club is developed “organically” with investments going into renovating the stadium, surrounding area and creating jobs, and not just on buying players.

Khan says that the writing was already on the wall for Newcastle manager Steve Bruce, even without the takeover, and the time has come to replace him with someone who has the desire to take the club forward.

“There are a few names that have been mentioned like [Antonio] Conte, but he said that he doesn’t want to join a project at this early stage so in my mind I’m not bothered about him,” he said. “I don’t want that type of personality.”

Khan would be happy with an up and coming manager.

 

 

“Someone like Graham Potter from Brighton, I think he’s doing a really good job. Maybe Steven Gerrard,” he said. “He’s got the capabilities. Obviously Rangers are not in the Premier League, but I think he looks like an exciting manager. And possibly a good manager to have at this early stage when we’re trying to develop the club.”

As for a more established name, his first choice in a perfect world would have been for a figure that is still loved at Newcastle.

“Maybe at this point you need a big manager in order to attract players, so Rafa (Benitez) would have been the ideal one, but that ship has sailed unfortunately.”

Looking at players, Khan says that calls to sign the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar are just a bit of fun by the fans.

Newcastle United’s English defender Jamaal Lascelles (C) heads the ball wide during the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Leeds United on Sept. 17, 2021. (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby / AFP)

“Newcastle fans are intelligent enough to know that the caliber of players that will come in will be experienced and exciting, but they’re not going to be that upper tier level of player initially,” he said. “Maybe (Philippe) Coutinho because he’s been linked several times, that could be our one marquee signing. Other than that, it would be great to get a few names in with Premier League experience, James Tarkowski of Burnley, he’d be a good signing. Sensible signings, we need to get a couple of defenders in and we need a striker. And I’d also like to replace Jonjo Shelvey, I’m not a big fan of his.”

Born in the UK, Khan grew up in Abu Dhabi before moving back to his home country as a teenager. That was when he fell in love with Kevin Keegan’s mid-90s Newcastle team, particularly Andy Cole. In 2018 he relocated to Dubai and discovered how popular English football was in the region. 

“Football is massive here, it really did take me by surprise,” he said. “When I first moved here during the World Cup three years ago, it was amazing to see how passionate everyone is about football. If Newcastle can turn themselves into one of the contenders, then there will be many more people following them. They’re a big club. I’ll be really excited to see more fans walking around in Newcastle shirts in the next year or so.”

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The end of the road for Bobby Lashley and Goldberg at the WWE Crown Jewel

The Indian Premier League concluded on Oct.15 without any apparent major hitches caused by the coronavirus disease or mental health issues. The T20 World Cup opened on schedule, rather romantically, with Papua New Guinea appearing for the first time only to be soundly beaten by Oman. England announced their squad to tour Australia, only to…

The end of the road for Bobby Lashley and Goldberg at the WWE Crown Jewel

The Indian Premier League concluded on Oct.15 without any apparent major hitches caused by the coronavirus disease or mental health issues.

The T20 World Cup opened on schedule, rather romantically, with Papua New Guinea appearing for the first time only to be soundly beaten by Oman.

England announced their squad to tour Australia, only to be condemned by parts of the press as unimaginative, not good enough and likely to be trounced, a view shared gloatingly down-under.

Unimaginative was also the verdict passed on the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)’s decision to restore its domestic four-day County Championship to a two divisional structure, comprising teams in the positions in which they ended the 2019 season.

Taken together, these outcomes provide the impression that normality has been restored to the world of cricket. However, dig a little deeper and some shifting plates may be discerned under the landscape. The most obvious one is the influence of the T20 format.

Whilst the IPL is its glittering epitome, the delayed return of the scheduled 2020 World Cup, hard on the heels of the IPL, will extend T20’s exposure for longer than normal. It will also supply a benchmark for its progress since the 2016 World Cup in terms of skills and tactics. Prior to the pandemic, nine countries/regions held International Cricket Council recognized T20 competitions, and three more are planned to start in 2022. Since 2016, both the Pakistan Super League and the Big Bash in Australia have grown in quality and appeal. 

Apart from the format, these tournaments share two common features — the ability to attract money and, partly because of this, the ability to attract players from a wide range of countries, based upon a bidding system that values each player according to perceived ability. The rewards are now staggering.

The total prize money for the T20 World Cup is $5.6 million. There will be $1.6 million for the winning team and $0.8 million for the runners-up. The losing semi-finalists will receive $0.4 million each, with the balance of $2.4 million being shared between group stage winners and those who are knocked out along the way.

In the 2021 IPL, the winners received around $2.65 million, the runners-up $1.69 million, and the third and fourth placed teams $1.16 million. On top of this, the players receive salaries with the top five being in a range of $2-2.4 million in 2021. The stark conclusion is that the top players in the IPL earn more than the winning team in the T20 World Cup, and that the financial reward for winning the IPL is greater than for winning the T20 World Cup. Taken together, the rewards on offer are a bonanza.

Contrast these riches, for example, to the financial state of English cricket. The ECB’s income is generated via broadcast rights deals, sponsorship from commercial partners, ICC distributions, ticket sales and sundry income. In the year ending Jan. 31, 2021, it reported an income of $290 million and a pandemic-induced loss of $22.6 million, which dramatically reversed the previous year’s profit of $9.1 million, causing a sharp fall in its cash reserves to $3.1 million.

As a non-profit-making organization, the ECB distributes its income in pursuit of its mission to manage and develop every form of cricket for men and women, boys and girls, from the playground to the Test arena. Almost 44 percent of the income goes directly to cricket organizations, including the 18 first-class counties. Fourteen percent is spent in supporting each of four areas — the running and growth of cricket from the grassroots up; running the England Men’s, Women’s and Disability teams; central activities, such as marketing and, in the current cycle, its new competition, The Hundred, which has been explored in previous columns. 

Professional cricket is organized through the County Championship structure. The counties have the responsibility for developing talent, ultimately producing cricketers who can perform at the highest level across the various formats.

A review of the finances of the 18 counties would show that, for most, there is a heavy dependency on the ECB distribution for survival. There is also a clear divergence between the financial health of those counties who host international matches and those who do not. The structure of county cricket and its dependence on central funds to maintain its current state has attracted much criticism, particularly in terms of the way in which the counties use the money to develop both the game and alternative income sources within their boundaries.

How enviously must English cricket cast its eyes at the wealthy, independent Board of Control of Cricket in India. Although it, too, has suffered a loss of income because of the pandemic, the completion of the IPL will ensure a recovery to previous levels and beyond. In 2019–2020, the BCCI’s annual income is thought to have been some $535 million. Almost two-thirds of this comes from the IPL, a quarter from bilateral cricket with other nations and 10 percent from its annual share of ICC revenues, which are derived from the ICC’s own media and sponsorship income streams. In 2022, two more franchises will be added to make a 10 team IPL tournament, creating further wealth.

The economics of world cricket have become highly skewed and look set to become even more so. This is largely because of the phenomenal success of T20 in cricket-mad India that has generated previously unseen revenue. This has allowed India’s cricketing ambitions to become more expansionary and has encouraged copycat tournaments to emerge.

In turn, the lure of high rewards and the attraction of the format in emerging countries that have a dearth of either facilities, resources or time, such as Papua New Guinea, is leading T20 to assume an increasingly prominent position in cricket’s landscape. This powerful position, coupled with the financial clout of India, can only lead, surely, to further changes in the way that the game is structured and financed.

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Real Madrid star Benzema goes on trial in sextape case

‘Minister of Happiness’ Ons Jabeur becomes first Arab tennis player to break into world’s top-10 RIYADH: In her home country of Tunisia, they call her “Wazeerat Al Sa’ada” or “Minister of Happiness,” and with good reason. As Ons Jabeur on Monday celebrated becoming the first Arab tennis player to enter the world’s top 10 after…

Real Madrid star Benzema goes on trial in sextape case

‘Minister of Happiness’ Ons Jabeur becomes first Arab tennis player to break into world’s top-10

RIYADH: In her home country of Tunisia, they call her “Wazeerat Al Sa’ada” or “Minister of Happiness,” and with good reason.

As Ons Jabeur on Monday celebrated becoming the first Arab tennis player to enter the world’s top 10 after moving to No. 8 in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings, her hordes of fans were feeling like they too had a reason to dream big.

Supporters of the 27-year-old throughout the Arab world have been setting their alarms for all hours to follow her recent matches in the Indian Wells tournament, where she reached the biggest semi-final of her career and secured her top 10 debut.

Amid a turbulent political climate in Tunisia, Jabeur has given her compatriots “a reason to smile” – as one Twitter user put it – and she has proved to herself, and everyone, that an Arab player can indeed join the sport’s elite at the very top.

Breaking new ground for Arab tennis, she does not just have the backing of fans from the Middle East and North Africa region; she has been embraced, both figuratively and literally, by the sport she has dedicated more than two decades of her life to.

Speaking on the Tennis Channel Live podcast on Friday, her idol, former world No. 1 Andy Roddick, said: “Ons Jabeur is quickly becoming one of my favorites in the world to watch, she’s just amazing, and maybe the most hugged player on tour; every single time she shakes a hand, people hug her, she must be an amazing person too.”

American Roddick is not wrong. Jabeur has won over fans with her exciting brand of tennis that features incredible variety, and she has also won over the locker room by being one of the friendliest and funniest players on tour.

The moment she won her Indian Wells quarter-final and guaranteed her place among the world’s top 10, social media timelines were flooded with heartfelt messages of congratulations from her peers as well as from legends of the sport.

From Billie Jean King to Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert to Tracy Austin, Jabeur’s historic achievement did not go unnoticed by a host of tennis greats.

Former world No. 1 Andy Murray shared the news on Twitter with the caption, “that’s very cool.”

Fellow players such as ex-US Open champion Sloane Stephens, Australian Open runner-up Jennifer Brady, Indian trail blazer Sania Mirza, four-time Grand Slam winner Kim Clijsters, and many more celebrated Jabeur online, while former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka gushed over her during a press conference on Friday.

The two-time major champion said: “She’s my dream player to play. I’m such a huge fan of her. I think she’s amazing. The history that she’s making in the part of the world where sports are not necessarily that accessible; I just can’t wait to see how much further she can go.

“Obviously she’s an incredible player. The improvement she has done throughout, I wouldn’t necessarily only talk this year, but the last couple years, to really step up her game, improve her fitness level. I’m a huge fan. I’m just fan-girling here completely,” Azarenka added.

The huge reaction to her latest feat has taken Jabeur by surprise, and it provided a welcome boost in her quest for further glory.

“It means a lot. I honestly did not expect Andy Murray or Navratilova or Billie Jean King to tweet about me. It’s unbelievable,” said Jabeur, who picked up her maiden WTA title earlier this year in Birmingham, before becoming the first Arab woman to make the Wimbledon quarter-finals in July.

“It just shows how important it is to me to achieve this. Being recognized by legends, honestly, it just gives me even more the power to work harder and be like them one day maybe, a Grand Slam champion.”

With the release of the new rankings on Monday, Jabeur eclipsed Morocco’s Younes El-Aynaoui, whose career-high mark of No. 14 was the highest ever reached by an Arab tennis player before the crafty Tunisian came along.

The now-retired El-Aynaoui has been following Jabeur’s career ever since she won the Roland-Garros (French Open) junior title as a 16-year-old in 2011.

El-Aynaoui told Arab News: “That was already an amazing achievement. We have to give her a lot of credit because to be very strong very young and then to wait that long to win again, to perform well … when you win the French Open juniors, everybody is expecting you to break into the top pretty fast, but it took her a while; she finally found her stability, maybe with the family, the husband, the coach.

“It’s just great to see her playing well tournament after tournament, it’s almost two years now she’s really on the top, and I think also there’s a big opportunity in women’s tennis today,” he said.

El-Aynaoui pointed out that Jabeur’s “patience” and “perseverance” stood out most to him when he looked at her journey and he hoped her success would inspire a new generation of young players from the Arab world and give a big boost to women’s sport in the region.

“We saw the last US Open, the two women’s finalists were newcomers. I think it’s a good time for Ons. Being top 10 is already amazing, but I would love to see her, why not, winning a slam or runner-up in a slam, that would be even greater I think,” he added.

With 48 victories under her belt in 2021, Jabeur has won more matches than any other player on the WTA tour so far this season and is in the running for a highly coveted qualification spot in next month’s WTA finals in Guadalajara, where the world’s top eight are set to compete.

Should she qualify, she would become the first Arab player to make it to a season-ending championships and Jabeur is determined to write one more chapter in the history books before she wraps up her year.

“Top 10 I know is just the beginning. I know I deserve this place, but I want to prove that I deserve to be here, I deserve to be one of the top 10 players,” she said.

The north African will be competing in Moscow this week and hopes to punch her ticket to the season finale.

She noted that it had been a stressful few weeks knowing she had a real chance of qualifying for the finals, while also acknowledging there was a lengthy list of players fighting for the same goal.

“I’ve never been in this situation; I never played this long; never been in the top 10 before. It’s a lot of things happening at the same time. This is what I’ve worked for, this is what I want to believe, to achieve.

“I finally, with maturity and enough experience, am accepting that this kind of pressure is a privilege, it’s a pleasure to have it,” she added.

Jabeur is not just managing the pressure of competition, she is also carrying the hopes of an entire region on her back, and she highlighted how tough it had been trying to carve a path for herself coming from a country such as Tunisia that had not produced top champions in the past.

“It is much different to come from my country than being American or French or Australian. They have not just the example of seeing players playing in front of you, they have more tennis clubs, even more tournaments.

“I’ve been rejected by sponsors because of where I come from, which is so not fair. I didn’t understand why before. I accepted it. I dealt with it. I am really proud of the person I have become today, just not relying on others.

“It gave me the courage to continue and achieve my goals, and I’m in the top 10 today,” she said.

El-Aynaoui said being the only person from a country or region on tour could have its advantages, as hitting a new milestone or pulling off a historic feat gained more attention.

“I wouldn’t call it pressure, I would call it motivation, when you know you’re playing and behind you there is a whole country and so many people supporting you, it gives you wings,” he added.

Jabeur is embracing the pressure and believes it will prepare her for even greater things down the road.

“I’m trying so hard to calm myself down and handle all this stress because I want to be a Grand Slam champion. If I want to do that, then I need to go through this. Hopefully I’ll go through this without having a heart attack,” she said jokingly.

Judging by how her career has unfolded so far, it is fair to assume the Minister of Happiness will be just fine.

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Five talking points ahead of all-Saudi AFC Champions League semifinal between Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr

‘Minister of Happiness’ Ons Jabeur becomes first Arab tennis player to break into world’s top-10 RIYADH: In her home country of Tunisia, they call her “Wazeerat Al Sa’ada” or “Minister of Happiness,” and with good reason. As Ons Jabeur on Monday celebrated becoming the first Arab tennis player to enter the world’s top 10 after…

Five talking points ahead of all-Saudi AFC Champions League semifinal between Al-Hilal and Al-Nassr

‘Minister of Happiness’ Ons Jabeur becomes first Arab tennis player to break into world’s top-10

RIYADH: In her home country of Tunisia, they call her “Wazeerat Al Sa’ada” or “Minister of Happiness,” and with good reason.

As Ons Jabeur on Monday celebrated becoming the first Arab tennis player to enter the world’s top 10 after moving to No. 8 in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings, her hordes of fans were feeling like they too had a reason to dream big.

Supporters of the 27-year-old throughout the Arab world have been setting their alarms for all hours to follow her recent matches in the Indian Wells tournament, where she reached the biggest semi-final of her career and secured her top 10 debut.

Amid a turbulent political climate in Tunisia, Jabeur has given her compatriots “a reason to smile” – as one Twitter user put it – and she has proved to herself, and everyone, that an Arab player can indeed join the sport’s elite at the very top.

Breaking new ground for Arab tennis, she does not just have the backing of fans from the Middle East and North Africa region; she has been embraced, both figuratively and literally, by the sport she has dedicated more than two decades of her life to.

Speaking on the Tennis Channel Live podcast on Friday, her idol, former world No. 1 Andy Roddick, said: “Ons Jabeur is quickly becoming one of my favorites in the world to watch, she’s just amazing, and maybe the most hugged player on tour; every single time she shakes a hand, people hug her, she must be an amazing person too.”

American Roddick is not wrong. Jabeur has won over fans with her exciting brand of tennis that features incredible variety, and she has also won over the locker room by being one of the friendliest and funniest players on tour.

The moment she won her Indian Wells quarter-final and guaranteed her place among the world’s top 10, social media timelines were flooded with heartfelt messages of congratulations from her peers as well as from legends of the sport.

From Billie Jean King to Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert to Tracy Austin, Jabeur’s historic achievement did not go unnoticed by a host of tennis greats.

Former world No. 1 Andy Murray shared the news on Twitter with the caption, “that’s very cool.”

Fellow players such as ex-US Open champion Sloane Stephens, Australian Open runner-up Jennifer Brady, Indian trail blazer Sania Mirza, four-time Grand Slam winner Kim Clijsters, and many more celebrated Jabeur online, while former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka gushed over her during a press conference on Friday.

The two-time major champion said: “She’s my dream player to play. I’m such a huge fan of her. I think she’s amazing. The history that she’s making in the part of the world where sports are not necessarily that accessible; I just can’t wait to see how much further she can go.

“Obviously she’s an incredible player. The improvement she has done throughout, I wouldn’t necessarily only talk this year, but the last couple years, to really step up her game, improve her fitness level. I’m a huge fan. I’m just fan-girling here completely,” Azarenka added.

The huge reaction to her latest feat has taken Jabeur by surprise, and it provided a welcome boost in her quest for further glory.

“It means a lot. I honestly did not expect Andy Murray or Navratilova or Billie Jean King to tweet about me. It’s unbelievable,” said Jabeur, who picked up her maiden WTA title earlier this year in Birmingham, before becoming the first Arab woman to make the Wimbledon quarter-finals in July.

“It just shows how important it is to me to achieve this. Being recognized by legends, honestly, it just gives me even more the power to work harder and be like them one day maybe, a Grand Slam champion.”

With the release of the new rankings on Monday, Jabeur eclipsed Morocco’s Younes El-Aynaoui, whose career-high mark of No. 14 was the highest ever reached by an Arab tennis player before the crafty Tunisian came along.

The now-retired El-Aynaoui has been following Jabeur’s career ever since she won the Roland-Garros (French Open) junior title as a 16-year-old in 2011.

El-Aynaoui told Arab News: “That was already an amazing achievement. We have to give her a lot of credit because to be very strong very young and then to wait that long to win again, to perform well … when you win the French Open juniors, everybody is expecting you to break into the top pretty fast, but it took her a while; she finally found her stability, maybe with the family, the husband, the coach.

“It’s just great to see her playing well tournament after tournament, it’s almost two years now she’s really on the top, and I think also there’s a big opportunity in women’s tennis today,” he said.

El-Aynaoui pointed out that Jabeur’s “patience” and “perseverance” stood out most to him when he looked at her journey and he hoped her success would inspire a new generation of young players from the Arab world and give a big boost to women’s sport in the region.

“We saw the last US Open, the two women’s finalists were newcomers. I think it’s a good time for Ons. Being top 10 is already amazing, but I would love to see her, why not, winning a slam or runner-up in a slam, that would be even greater I think,” he added.

With 48 victories under her belt in 2021, Jabeur has won more matches than any other player on the WTA tour so far this season and is in the running for a highly coveted qualification spot in next month’s WTA finals in Guadalajara, where the world’s top eight are set to compete.

Should she qualify, she would become the first Arab player to make it to a season-ending championships and Jabeur is determined to write one more chapter in the history books before she wraps up her year.

“Top 10 I know is just the beginning. I know I deserve this place, but I want to prove that I deserve to be here, I deserve to be one of the top 10 players,” she said.

The north African will be competing in Moscow this week and hopes to punch her ticket to the season finale.

She noted that it had been a stressful few weeks knowing she had a real chance of qualifying for the finals, while also acknowledging there was a lengthy list of players fighting for the same goal.

“I’ve never been in this situation; I never played this long; never been in the top 10 before. It’s a lot of things happening at the same time. This is what I’ve worked for, this is what I want to believe, to achieve.

“I finally, with maturity and enough experience, am accepting that this kind of pressure is a privilege, it’s a pleasure to have it,” she added.

Jabeur is not just managing the pressure of competition, she is also carrying the hopes of an entire region on her back, and she highlighted how tough it had been trying to carve a path for herself coming from a country such as Tunisia that had not produced top champions in the past.

“It is much different to come from my country than being American or French or Australian. They have not just the example of seeing players playing in front of you, they have more tennis clubs, even more tournaments.

“I’ve been rejected by sponsors because of where I come from, which is so not fair. I didn’t understand why before. I accepted it. I dealt with it. I am really proud of the person I have become today, just not relying on others.

“It gave me the courage to continue and achieve my goals, and I’m in the top 10 today,” she said.

El-Aynaoui said being the only person from a country or region on tour could have its advantages, as hitting a new milestone or pulling off a historic feat gained more attention.

“I wouldn’t call it pressure, I would call it motivation, when you know you’re playing and behind you there is a whole country and so many people supporting you, it gives you wings,” he added.

Jabeur is embracing the pressure and believes it will prepare her for even greater things down the road.

“I’m trying so hard to calm myself down and handle all this stress because I want to be a Grand Slam champion. If I want to do that, then I need to go through this. Hopefully I’ll go through this without having a heart attack,” she said jokingly.

Judging by how her career has unfolded so far, it is fair to assume the Minister of Happiness will be just fine.

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