TUNIS (Reuters) - The success of Tunisia's Ons Jabeur in reaching Saturday's Wimbledon singles final has prompted immense excitement in her home country for a woman nicknamed the "Minister of Happiness".
On the streets of the capital Tunis, people said her achievements had given them a new love of tennis, while Sports Minister Kamel Deguich said there would be a huge official reception for her when she came back home.
"Tunisians have forgotten their problems, all are proud of Ons... She is really the Minister of Happiness," Deguich said of the first Arab to reach a Grand Slam final, adding he would travel to London to watch Saturday's match.
The 27-year-old third seed also became the first African woman to reach the showpiece match at the All England Club after her 6-2 3-6 6-1 victory over close friend Tatjana Maria on Thursday.
Tunisians are suffering from a bad economic situation, while public finances are about to collapse, amid a severe political crisis since President Kais Saied seized control of the executive power and then dissolved the parliament.
But Jabeur's success on court has at least given many Tunisians some respite from bad news.
"She made us happy even in the economic conditions we have now," said Mounir Karoui, 47, adding that Jabeur had "shown a beautiful image of Tunisia to the world".
Jabeur has been a trailblazer throughout her career, last year becoming the first Arab player to win a WTA title, the first to crack the top 10 in the world rankings and the first to reach the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
"I never had a special love for this game, but since Ons Jabeur started playing, I watch it all the time. She made us love tennis," said Khalifa Haj Belgacem, 38.
Jabeur has moved up a level this year and said that Wimbledon was a particular focus for her, surprising given that as a child learning the game she never even saw a grass court and her ambition was to win the French Open.
"She sends a message to young people that when you trust yourself and set a goal in your life, you can reach it," said Marwen Nouri, 32.