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Ons Jabeur becomes first Arab woman to reach last eight of tennis Grand Slam

Tunisian says she hopes her progress in the Australian Open will inspire young people across the Arabic-speaking world
Jabeur, currently ranked 78th in the world, will now play number 14 seed America’s Sofia Kenin in the last eight on Tuesday (AFP)

Unseeded tennis player Ons Jabeur has become the first Arab woman to make it to a Grand Slam singles quarter-final, after knocking out China’s Wang Qiang in the Australian Open on Sunday.

The Tunisian said she hoped to inspire young people across the Arabic-speaking world, as the region’s highest ranking Arab tennis player looked to break into the top 50 this week.  

"I'm trying to inspire many of the young generation back home either in Tunisia or the Arabic world, especially in Africa, which is amazing," Jabeur said.

"I mean, it's not impossible. I made it. Like I said before, I've been practising in Tunisia from the age of three through 16 or 17. I'm a 100 percent Tunisian product."

The 27th seed Wang was able to beat Serena Williams in the third round but was overcome by 25-year-old Jabeur, who managed to come back from a break down in the first set to win 7-6, 6-1.

Jabeur, currently ranked 78th in the world, will now play number 14 seed Sofia Kenin, of the United States, in the last eight on Tuesday. The Tunisian lost to Kenin last year in Hobart. 

'We've been through rough times'

Moroccan Hicham Arazi was the last Arab tennis player to reach the last eight at Melbourne Park back in 2004.

Selima Sfar is the only other Tunisian woman to have won at a Grand Slam, after reaching the second round at Wimbledon, the US Open and the French Open during the first decade of the century. 

Jabeur is not the only north African to feature in this year’s Australian Open.

In the women’s qualifying draw, Egyptian debutante Mayar Sherif made it to the first round, whilst her compatriot Mohamed Safwat made it through his three qualifying matches to become the first Egyptian player since 1978 to make the Australian Open's main draw.

Jabeur initially struggled to break into the top 100 after winning the Roland Garros junior title at 16 in 2011. She was able to gain a career-high last year by moving to 51st place. 

"The family, everyone was behind me. They couldn't go back to sleep again, of course. But I'm happy that I have this support because we've been through rough times. Now it's finally paying off."

Last December, Jabuer was honoured at the Arab Women of the Year ceremony in London.