Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur has said she will donate a part of her prize money from the ongoing Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Finals to Palestinians facing the wrath of Israel’s war on Gaza.
A visibly emotional Jabeur held back tears as she spoke on the court after her win over Marketa Vondrousova in Cancun on Wednesday.
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“I am very happy with the win, but I haven’t been happy lately,” Jabeur said when asked if – being Tunisia’s unofficial “Minister of Happiness” – she was happy to avenge her Wimbledon final defeat to Vondrousova.
“The situation in the world doesn’t make me happy,” Jabeur said, then paused and moved away from the microphone as she broke down in tears.
The crowd at the seaside Mexican town applauded Jabeur as she composed herself before speaking about the images coming out of Gaza.
“It’s very tough seeing children, babies dying every day,” she said.
“It’s heartbreaking, so I have decided to donate part of my prize money to help the Palestinians.”
Ons Jabeur says she’s donating a portion of her prize money to Palestine:
“I am very happy with the win but I haven't been very happy lately. The situation in the world doesn't make me happy… I feel like… I am sorry. It’s very tough seeing children & babies dying every day.… pic.twitter.com/fVBz9McSjU
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) November 2, 2023
‘I want peace in this world’
The 29-year-old has often spoken up on social issues, especially in the Middle East and North African region.
“I cannot be happy with just this win, with what is happening. I’m sorry guys, it’s supposed to be about tennis, but it’s very frustrating looking at videos every day.
“I’m sorry – it’s not a political message, it’s just humanity. I want peace in this world and that’s it.”
Following the on-court interview, Jabeur was visibly upset in her post-match press conference as well and said she had been finding it difficult to get much sleep after watching “horrible” photos and videos from the war in Gaza.
“I try to stay off social media as much as I can but it’s very tough,” she told reporters.
“You go through horrible photos and videos every day – it doesn’t let me sleep or recover very well.
“The worst thing is I feel hopeless, I feel like cannot do anything.”
The world’s seventh-ranked women’s singles player said she has been affected by “seeing babies, women and people dying every day”.
“I wish [for] peace in this world, I wish we could restore humanity.”
At least 8,796 people, including 3,648 children and 2,290 women have been killed in Gaza by an Israeli bombardment since the Palestinian armed group Hamas carried out deadly attacks in Israel on October 7.
‘Winning a tennis match doesn’t mean anything’
Jabeur is the only Arab and Muslim player to have qualified for a women’s singles Grand Slam final.
The Tunisian found plenty of support in the crowd at Cancun, including a young fan who shouted: “I started playing tennis because of you, Ons.”
Jabeur said it was an honour for her to receive such warmth although she came “from very far away [from Mexico].”
However, she said winning a tennis match “doesn’t mean anything in front of what’s been happening for weeks and weeks [in Gaza]”.
“I wish could wave a magic wand and just end this and have peace for everybody.”
Despite pledging to donate a part of her prize money to Palestinians, Jabeur said she knew it wouldn’t “mean anything to them right now” but hoped it would help a little bit with what they have been going through.
She revealed plans to start her own foundation “very soon” and hoped it would help people “in different situations”.
“It’s part of my plan to be not just an athlete but also a good ambassador and a good human being because after all, the tennis career will stop and all I want to do is to help people in different situations.”