The tears flowing down Ons Jabeur’s face as she trudged up to accept a Wimbledon runner’s-up plate for the second year running from Britain’s Princess of Wales told their own story -- the Tunisian did not want another silver salver in her collection.
While it is a prize given only to those who finish second at the grasscourt major, for Jabeur it will be a painful reminder of how close she was to achieving something she desperately wanted.
After all the hard work she put in to beat six rivals, including four Grand Slam champions, Jabeur had stood on the cusp of becoming the first Arab and first African woman to win a Grand Slam title.
However, the weight of expectation simply crushed her on Saturday as she was subjected to a 6-4 6-4 beating by Marketa Vondrousova after failing to hold on to a 4-2 lead in the first set and a 3-1 advantage in the second.
Add in the fact that she also finished second best to Iga Swiatek at last year’s U.S. Open final, the popular Jabeur was left wondering what more she needs to do to finally hold aloft a Grand Slam trophy.
Luckily four-time major winner Kim Clijsters, who had lost her first four Grand Slam finals, was waiting in the wings to hug the distraught 28-year-old and offer her hope that her time will come.
“We were crying together at the locker room,” Jabeur told reporters.
“I love Kim so much. She’s a great inspiration for me. I grew up watching her a bit. The fact that she takes the time to give me advice and to really hug me, always be there for me, I think it’s priceless. She was telling me all the time she lost four (finals).
“(You need to take) the positive out of it. You cannot force things. It wasn’t meant to be. It wasn’t meant to be.”
Jabeur finds herself in good company as Chris Evert lost her first three slam finals before finishing with a final tally of 18, while 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep also lost three before she joined the winners’ circle.
But unlike Evert and Halep, Jabeur feels like she is shouldering the hopes of an entire continent and the Arab world each time she steps on court and that is something she knows she has to come to better terms with.
“The more good results that I do, the more pressure I feel. I felt a lot of pressure, feeling a lot of stress,” said Jabeur, whose Wimbledon title dreams were dashed under a barrage of 31 unforced errors that flew off her racket on Saturday.
“Definitely this match, last year’s match, the final of the U.S. Open, will teach me how to win these finals. I’ll definitely keep learning, keep being positive.
“That’s the thing that will keep me going. Otherwise, if I’m going to be depressed about it, it’s not going to help much. Hopefully I will be like the others that failed a couple of times to do it and it (the win) will come after. I’ll try to stay positive.”
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