‘I wish I could play forever’ says tearful Murray at Wimbledon farewell

LONDON: When Ons Jabeur arrived here for Wimbledon last week, she felt “a bit sad”.

The Tunisian history maker had a remarkable success, but at the same time suffered the biggest disappointment on the center court of Wimbledon. Understandably, her heartbreaking defeat in the final 12 months ago still stings.

It was Jabeur’s second appearance in a Wimbledon final in a row and she was considered the favorite against Marketa Vondrous, who had far less experience on grass entering the competition.

But the Czech left-hander was ice cold and handed a nervous and broken Jabeur a straight loss to secure his first Grand Slam crown.

“A lot of memories from last year came back to me. I felt like crying a little bit,” Jabeur told Arab News about how she felt after returning to the legendary All England Club last week.

“But at the end I remembered that this is where I want to be in such an amazing tournament. I feel so much love here, so much respect.

“I don’t think I feel so much love and respect anywhere else. It’s wonderful to be here. I don’t want to take any moment for granted that I’m here. I want to enjoy every second here at Wimbledon.”

For a second, we feel a hint of uncertainty in Jabeur’s words. Does this suggest that maybe he won’t be returning to SW19 too often in the future?

“I’m not saying I’m retiring or anything. But you don’t know what might happen in the future. So for me, I’m really trying to see the positive,” said the North African, who turns 30 next month.

“I’m trying to see that out of millions of players, I’m one of the players who could play here at Wimbledon. It’s really wonderful to remember that and it’s really wonderful to be grateful for it.”

In the documentary “This Is Me” produced and released by Tod TV earlier this year, Jabeur revealed the reason for her breakdown under pressure in last year’s championship decider.

Jabeur has been married to former fencer Karim Kamoun since 2015 and has revealed that she wants to start a family. However, she found it difficult to leave the tour when she was performing so well. She is now ranked 10th, but at one stage she was ranked 2nd in the world.

She felt that the 2023 Wimbledon final was her chance. “I’m winning that (the final) I can have a baby now. And that dream vanished. I was haunted by fear,” Jabeur admitted in the documentary.

A year after that difficult experience, Jabeur finds herself back on the hallowed turf of the All England Club, ready for another attempt at the sport’s most prestigious trophy.

She believes her mindset has changed and is taking a different approach to this Wimbledon fortnight. “One thing I’ve finally come to terms with is that I separated a child from winning a Grand Slam,” she explained.

“Because they were both in the same line, which was wrong and a bit harsh on me.”

“So that’s fine, it’s out of my control when to have a Grand Slam. I’m not going to put a timetable on it. It also took some of the pressure off of me.

“But also to accept what I’m doing; I know that I do everything at 100 percent. I have a team behind me that always supports me and I will give 100 percent on the court. And if it comes, it comes, and if it doesn’t, I know I don’t regret anything because I’ve tried everything.”

One of the most memorable moments from last year’s tournament was when Jabeur cried during the trophy presentation, showing the world how painful the loss was and what winning Wimbledon really meant to her.

She was comforted by Kate Middleton, Princess of Wales, who, like many around the world, seemed genuinely moved by Jabeur’s tears.

It was Jabeurová’s third defeat in a Grand Slam final (she also fell in the title decider at the US Open 2022).

Her tearful moments on court were reminiscent of Andy Murray’s emotional speech when he lost to Roger Federer in the 2012 Wimbledon final.

It was the Briton’s fourth loss at a major at this stage, but he has won three Grand Slams, including two at the All England Club.

“I know he’s lost a couple of Grand Slam finals and I’ve seen him win here, twice actually, which was amazing. And he also won the Olympics here,” Jabeur said of Murray’s performances on home soil.

“What he did and how he came back and won was really incredible. And I hope that it will be a fairy tale for me as well, how my story will kind of end.”

While Jabeur can draw inspiration from Murray’s story, there’s another Andy she’d like to consult – one she’s admired since childhood.

“I was actually thinking about Andy Roddick, how he lost it (the Wimbledon final) so many times and couldn’t win it,” she said.

“I wanted to text him and say, ‘If you had to change one thing and do it differently, what would you do?’ I’m still debating whether to do it or not.”

As she prepares to begin her Wimbledon campaign against Japan’s Moyuka Uchijima on Tuesday, aiming to reach the final for the third straight year, it might not hurt to give Roddick a call.

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