Russian – Tunisian fencer helped Jaber make tennis history
On May 7, the Tunisian won the Masters final in Madrid: Ons Jaber defeated Jessica Pegula of the United States to win the first Grand Slam of her career. Ones made her way from the ITF to the WTA titles and the TBS quarter-finals with her husband Karim Kamoun.
There are only a few cases of successful tandems of relatives or loved ones in big tennis. One such is the case of Jaber. She entered the pro tour in 2013 when she first snagged the WTA top 200. But there was something missing to make the leap and make it to the elite. She was looking for that missing piece. By chance, she was able to meet a former Russian fencer Karim Kamun.
The guy represented Tunisia at the African Championships and the Pan-Arab Games. It was probably at another training camp at the El Menza Olympic Sports Palace in Tunisia that they met. It was in 2013 that 18-year-old Jaber first left her parents in the town of Qasr Hilale and began her professional journey on her own. At the center, experienced mentors helped gifted teenagers step into professional sports.
But a couple of years older than her, Karim was already building a professional future: he won silver in sword in Casablanca in 2008, and bronze in Egyptian Le Keir three years later. Apparently, the romance progressed more rapidly than his career, so in 2017 Karim took the last fencing tournament in Doha and retired. At the same time, after two years of dating, they got engaged and formalized their union. So a few months later, already husband Karim moved into the Jaber lodge permanently – becoming a fitness trainer. He also followed his wife around Europe: at the start Jaber found a training base in Slovakia, where working at a high altitude helped the girl professionally.
It seems that this decision was the most important in the girl’s career. That’s when Ones made her debut at four Grand Slam tournaments. She slid onto the courts at Roland Garros as a lackey loser, but for the first time she beat the top seed, world number six Dominika Cibulkova, and made it to the top 100. “Sure, it feels like history,” Jaber told The New York Times. – But I like to just stay focused on winning so I can keep making history. For me, it’s not the end. It’s the beginning of a dream.”
A year later, Jaber reached the Kremlin Cup final but lost the title to Daria Kasatkina, and in 2021, she took revenge on the Russian with a grass-court 250 series tournament in Birmingham. By May 2022, Jaber had taken two WTA finals and was one step away from a trophy in five. During that time, she was recognized as the Arab Woman of the Year in the sport and the first African player in the top 10 of the world rankings.
Not surprisingly, Ones and Karim have found common ground on the court. The hallmark of Jaber’s game has always been her variety, combinative and attacking style, built on strength and athleticism. She uses dropshots and slashes to keep her opponent guessing, powerful and spot-on left and right shots. Plus, her game adapts to all surfaces. As a pair, they work through a training program, monitor nutrition and physical activity in the gym. The fencing champion, Jaber says, also gives advice for mental health – Karim has a master’s degree in psychology.
“Good people around you really help you make progress,” she said.
Off the court, the couple also does everything together: cooking, traveling, learning languages. Both are polyglots: they speak Arabic, English, French, and, more recently, Karim is teaching his wife Russian as well. After all, the 35-year-old coach does not forget his roots: they often fly to Moscow to visit his relatives: his parents – a Russian mother and a Tunisian father – have been together for 40 years. Sometimes his sister Lilia visits Russia, too: the gymnast took team bronze at the 2012 African Championships, then became a rhythmic gymnastics coach and classical dance teacher at a club in Paris. “Always remember your roots,” Karim captioned the photo from Red Square.
“You give meaning to my life,” her husband is often candid online and on camera. It is the familiality and warm relationship in the couple that WTA PR especially likes to promote: more and more often in interviews Jaber does not appear alone, but in the company of his chosen one. Mutual understanding and unity both on and off the court perfectly describes the values of the tour.