Believing in Limitless Possibilities: Arab Women in the World of Competitive Tennis
If you have been following the news from the world of competitive tennis, you may have come across headlines about a young Arab woman who has been quietly moving up the ranks. As someone of a Middle Eastern origin, it is always a source of pride to see women from countries in the Middle East and North Africa succeed and gain recognition globally – whether for excellence in business, art, science, or sports.
Watching these women excel in sports is particularly thrilling, simply because it is unexpected, almost iconoclastic. It cannot be easy for them. For these women, trivial matters such as what to wear, where to train, or who to train with (a male or a female coach) are major hurdles.
Not only are they breaking with their centuries-long social and cultural traditions, but they are also battling widely held stereotypes. They are single-handedly challenging the traditions that have historically imposed limitations on what is considered acceptable or appropriate while at the same time fighting to change the prevailing image of a Muslim woman in the eyes of the rest of the world. They prove that not all these women are veiled, powerless, and invisible members of their societies.
You may have guessed who I was talking about: Ons Jabeur, the 26-year-old Tunisian who has been grabbing headlines in the world of tennis. Ons is the first Arab Muslim woman to break the top 25 in tennis and win a Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) title. And she is only at the beginning of her journey.
It is important to point out that Ons is following in the footsteps of other women like herself. One by one, these women are breaking conventions and challenging norms to shape the possible futures for young middle eastern girls. Some of the names include:
- Sania Mirza, 34 years old, from India, was ranked India’s No. 1 player by WTA
- Aravane Rezai, 34, Iranian French, ranked No. 15 at the height of her career
- Cagla Buyukakcay, 31, from Turkey, highest career ranking at No. 60
- Fatma al-Nabhani, 30, from Oman, highest ranking at No. 362
- Ipek Soylu, 25, from Turkey, highest career ranking at No. 151
These individuals are trailblazers and mavericks. They are paving the way for the younger generations growing up watching them and imagining their potential for future greatness. It is about believing in limitless possibilities.
One can only imagine the immense pressure these athletes must be feeling – there is so much riding on their success. It is more than just winning. It is a revolution. Perhaps the significance of their achievements gives a deeper meaning to their efforts, adding extra fuel to their passion, commitment, and dedication to tennis.
The good news is that things are a-changin’. Tennis is enjoying increased popularity in these regions, translating into more support and investment behind the sport. In these countries where sports like soccer reign supreme, male tennis players competing in the grand slam events are also few and far between. Yet, despite all limitations, women are breaking through. One thing is certain – the future is bright!