Wimbledon 2022: Ons Jabeur column on playing with Serena Williams

Wimbledon 2022: Ons Jabeur column on playing with Serena Williams

Ons Jabeur

Venue: All England Club Dates: 27 June-10 July
Coverage: Live across BBC TV, radio and online with extensive coverage on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Connected TVs and mobile app.

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, the WTA world number two, is the latest top player to do an exclusive BBC Sport column at a Grand Slam tournament.

In her first piece at Wimbledon, she discusses the “unbelievable” experience of playing doubles with Serena Williams and how she has already invited the American to her home country.

Playing with Serena Williams in the doubles at Eastbourne last week was an unbelievable experience and one which gives me added confidence as I try my best to win my first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon.

If she sees me as a great player and looks at me in that way then I can see myself that way, too.

I always had the dream of practising or playing against Serena but I never imagined the fact I could play doubles with her and be on the same side of the court.

I could not imagine being able to see first-hand how a legend – one of the GOATs (greatest of all time players) – reacts on court and talks to herself.

I saw a lot of important details like when she is going to serve, chooses a spot and then goes and aces. In one service game at Eastbourne, we were three break points down and she served three aces in a row.

That shows the difference between her and other players – her mentality is so strong.

She kept pushing me forward too. If I chose to serve to a spot she would say ‘great choice’. She confirmed my choice of serve and gave me that confidence to serve better.

The whole experience means I feel like I am the luckiest player in the world.

There can be all the documentaries about Serena but you can very rarely be next to her, next to someone that great, on court.

I got that chance and I could see why she is the amazing player and human being she is.

‘Coco joked she was jealous of Onsrena’

We’re not playing the doubles together at Wimbledon because we’re focused on singles, but I did practise with her at the All England Club on Saturday.

She rarely practises with any other players, maybe except for her sister Venus, but it felt very natural that I could ask her if she wanted to play for 30 minutes or one hour – and she said “yes let’s do it”.

I feel Serena was playing well and moving well. I think she can win matches at Wimbledon.

We were put in opposite sides of the draw so that means we couldn’t play until the final.

That’s OK – I’ll send her to Iga Swiatek’s half instead and leave the possibility of those two great players facing each other.

I, for sure, didn’t want to play her in the first round. You don’t want to play Serena, especially at Wimbledon.

But if it did happen then it would be amazing to play her and that would add one another thing to the dream list for me.

After we finished the practice session she was very helpful and said if I needed anything then to let her know.

I was like a sparring partner – I was trying not to miss a ball and to impress her. It was really cool.

Maybe two or three years ago, I would have been so shy to even talk to her and even more nervous.

But the fact I can handle my nerves and felt natural being with her and speaking to her was amazing.

I’m still living the dream.

A lot of the players messaged me about the doubles partnership – which we called ‘Onsrena’.

When I saw Coco Gauff she joked to me that she was jealous! But she told me I deserved it.

‘I’ve already invited Serena to visit Tunisia’

I knew before the French Open that ‘Onsrena’ was going to happen.

I told some of the closest people to me, family and one good friend, but it had to be a secret.

I was super excited and I tried not to show it. When everybody found out, they all started texting me to say “why didn’t you tell me?”.

Everyone at home in Tunisia has gone crazy about it.

All the videos and photos of us playing doubles are being shown there. The images where I have done a good shot and Serena makes a funny or impressed reaction are people’s favourites.

One of the first things I did when we met up in Eastbourne was to invite her to Tunisia.

I told her she should come because she has never been to Tunisia. Maybe it won’t happen now but hopefully in a few years.

I would have to prepare properly to show her all the best parts of Tunisia and, because everyone there loves Serena – and Venus, too – we would probably need to have about 10,000 bodyguards to calm the excitement.

I’m from Sousse, which is a beautiful coastal city on the east of Tunisia and about 90-minute drive from the capital Tunis.

It is on the beach, has incredible architecture and is just an amazing place.

That’s where I’d take her for sure, but you will have to wait a little while until I can tell you the full plan!

Ons Jabeur was speaking to BBC Sport’s Jonathan Jurejko at Wimbledon.

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