LONDON — As Anas Zafar sat staring sadly at the grass in her court seat, it was easy to guess the painful thoughts running through her head after all she had done at Wimbledon. It wasn’t the result I was hoping for after a great run at the Grand Championship.
Ahead of Saturday’s final against Russian-born Kazakh Elina Rybakina, the talented Tunisian looked at her name on the honors plaque at the entrance to the main court with “the words of victory and the trophy in her hand”.
But Rybakina eventually stole the spotlight, becoming the first Kazakh player to win a singles title at a major tournament.
“Elena stole my title,” he joked to fans after losing 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
With the final taking place on the day Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, the 27-year-old hopes to make it an even happier occasion by becoming the first African and Arab to win a major tournament title.
And Anas was so focused on winning that he removed the picture dear to his heart from his mobile phone and replaced it with a picture of the championship shield.
After she failed to cross the finish line, the Tunisian said, “I wanted to win this title. Maybe I didn’t win it because I wanted it so much.”
Showing everyone’s mobile phones, he added, “Since the beginning of this year, I have done everything to focus on this competition. I put the first prize picture of the competition on my phone.”
“But unfortunately it didn’t come to pass.”
Fans at the main stadium, which can hold around 15,000 spectators, did their best to cheer on Ans as they watched the match slip away from the world number two.
Chants of “Yalla, Anas” went up after Rybakina went 2-0 up in the final set, deafening the roar before each of the Tunisian’s serves.
There were moments when fans greeted Rybakina’s mistakes with cheers and cheers, but nothing could stop the Kazakh’s winning streak.
“I was hoping to take advantage of the opportunities I got in front of her,” Anas said, “but it’s frustrating to face a player who serves so well and doesn’t give you any chances.
“I tried to do my best, I tried to cheer myself up and told her it’s not over yet. I believe in my abilities.
“I even told you I love you during the match. I couldn’t do more.”
But despite falling short of her ultimate goal, the leading Tunisian knows that she has brought so much joy and happiness to millions of people around the world and believes it is only a matter of time before she joins the ranks of major tournament winners.
Ones, who is expected to receive a hero’s welcome upon his return to Tunisia, said: “I will never trust my abilities and know that I will come back to win four major tournaments. I will definitely learn from this experience and come out of it with a lot of positives.”
“This is the beginning of big things for me…I’m trying to inspire future generations in my country. I hope they listen.”
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