After a moment of silence in memory of The Queen in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday night, Ons Jabeur fulfilled a promise to herself, to have a good run at the US Open, by reaching the final with an emphatic 6-1 6-3 win over France’s Caroline Garcia.
She comes in the court and puts a lot of pressure on my second serves. I’m really glad she didn’t break me in the end -- would have been really tough to go to 5-4. Ons Jabeur
The Tunisian will have to face and get past World No 1 Iga Swiatek on Saturday to go one better than her finalist appearance at Wimbledon in July, if she is to win a Grand Slam singles title for the first time and make yet more history.
The 28-year old needed little more than an hour to romp past Garcia, the 17th seed, in the first semi-final.
“It feels amazing,” Jabeur said. “After Wimbledon I had a lot of pressure on me, and I’m really relieved that I can back up my results.
“The hard court season started a little bit bad, but I’m very happy that I made it to the finals here.”
At Wimbledon, Jabeur lost to Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina in 3 sets and, here in New York, she has been pushed hard at times but prevailed, making yet more history as she becomes the first African woman ever to reach the final of the US Open.
The Tunisian dominated Garcia from start to finish of a one-sided semi-final to extend her career-long domination of the Frenchwoman, whom she defeated 4 times as a junior in Grand Slam events, and twice on the pro tour ahead of Thursday.
“I know she was playing amazing tennis and that puts a lot of pressure on you,” Jabeur said. “It wasn’t easy for me but, mentally, I was so ready.”
Garcia reached the Last 4 on the back of a 13-match winning streak, which included a title win at the WTA 1000 event in Cincinnati the week before New York.
Jabeur, though, systematically picked apart Garcia’s game, as well as shattering her dream of becoming the first Frenchwoman to win the US Open crown.
Garcia got broken right away, thanks to a netted forehand, a wide forehand, a long backhand and, perhaps most reflective of her nerves, a dumped easy put-away volley which found the bottom of the net.
It was a rather inauspicious and jittery start for Garcia, who had not lost a set at Flushing Meadows on the way to her debut in a Slam semi-final.
She later admitted she had struggled to cope with the pressure of the occasion.
“Obviously nerves were there,” Garcia said. “Today I did know it was semi-finals, so you know what it’s bringing you, if you win, and what you want to achieve. It’s a dream since I’m a little girl.
“I tried the best I could. I kept fighting, kept going for it, because I know it’s my way to do things.”
It was a shaky and disappointing showing by the 28-year old, who came into the match with more aces than any player, while Jabeur displayed some surprising power of her own, firing 3 aces in her first 2 service games as she went up a double-break when Garcia tossed another of her backhands into the net.
The first set was over in a scant 23 minutes when Garcia hit her 14th miscue of the set, against Jabeur, who had 6 aces and 11 winners.
The second provided more of the same, and Jabeur broke for a 4th time with Garcia serving at 1-2, converting her 4th break point in 4 chances against the Frenchwoman, who had been broken only 3 times in her 5 previous matches.
While the match was not yet won, it might as well have been, although Garcia glimpsed a tiny opening with Jabeur serving at 15-30 and, standing 2 feet inside the baseline was poised to attack, but the Tunisian fired a 92 mph second serve that hit the line and skipped past her untouched. There was to be no turning back.
Jabeur produced 8 aces and 21 winners in the match to just 15 unforced errors, and she did not face a break point as she converted all 4 of her chances, falling to the court after shaking hands with Garcia, soaking it all in.
First she dropped to her knees, and then let out a yell, followed up by laying on her back in the middle of the court, and traded a thumbs-up signal with 4-time major champion Arantxa Sánchez Vicario seated in her player box.
“She comes in the court and puts a lot of pressure on my second serves,” Jabeur said in her on-court interview. “I’m really glad she didn’t break me in the end — would have been really tough to go to 5-4.”
Remarkably, in the 57th match of her season, this was the first match Jabeur had not faced a break point.
She also improved to 6-0 in semi-finals this season, and earned her tour-leading 92nd victory since the start of the year, the 91st of which came when she defeated Ajla Tomljanovic, who eliminated Serena Williams in the 3rd-round.
To Jabeur’s surprise, and delight, she heard her quarter-final victory over Tomljanovic on Tuesday was drawing viewers back home, even though it was on TV at the same night as a Champions League game between Juventus and Paris St. Germain.
“In Tunisia, it’s all about soccer,” she said. “But people were not watching the game, they were watching my game, which is impressive to me.”
Jabeur continues to make history in her country while trail-blazing across her continent, and she will, no doubt, be cheered on from afar in the final when she meets Poland’s two-time major winner Swiatek, after the 21-year old moved into her first US Open final with a 3-6 6-1 6-4 victory over Belarusian 6th seed Aryna Sabalenka.
The two will meet in the final, which takes place in New York on Saturday at 9pm British Summer Time, in a match-up between the two most dominant players on the WTA Tour this year.
In 2020, at the Australian Open, Jabeur became the first Arab woman to reach the quarter-finals at a major, and last year produced all sorts of milestones – the first Arab player to break into the top 10 of the men’s or women’s rankings, and the first Arab to win a WTA title.
“Definitely, saying out loud, what I want to do is part of me achieving things,” said Jabeur.
”I’m sure it’s a lot of pressure on her shoulders,” observed Garcia. “But she looks like to be managing it really well.”
“Mentally,” said Jabeur, who travels with a sports psychologist and will be ranked No 2 in the world come Monday. “I was so ready.”
She plans to be again on Saturday.