Wimbledon | Jabeur fulfils one dream defeating her buddy Maria

Ons Jabeur fulfilled her first ambition, which was to reach the Wimbledon final, the first Arab woman to do so, and now has her eye on her second, to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish on Saturday.

Physically, Tatjana [Maria] is a beast, she doesn't give up. I thought she would give up -- her touch, her serve and everything on the court is impressive. I hope she's continues this way... Let's not play again I'm good for now! Ons Jabeur

She successfully navigated a tricky semi-final against her friend and ‘barbecue buddy’ Tatjana Maria, 6-2 3-6 6-1, in an hour and 43 minutes, and it proved to be a tougher taks than the score might suggest.

Jabeur is used to making history, the first Tunisian, first Arab and first African woman to reach a Grand Slam final, having been a trail-blazer for her country for the past 4 years, and now, after winning 22 of her past 24 matches, the 27-year-old has given herself the opportunity to go for the biggest milestone of all.

“I’m a proud Tunisian woman standing here today,” Jabeur, who will face either Simona Halep or Elena Rybakina in the final on Saturday, said in her on-court interview, “And I know in Tunisia they’re going crazy right now.

“I just try to inspire really as much as I can. I want to see more and more, not just Tunisian, but Arab and African players on tour.

“I just love the game and I want to share this experience with them.”

Before Jabeur, the only Tunisian to reach the Top 100 of the WTA rankings was Selima Sfar, who peaked at No 75 in July 2001, while South Africans Irene Bowder Peacock, at the 1927 French Open, and Renee Schuurman, in the 1959 Australian Open, were the only African women to reach a Grand Slam final.

Jabeur became the first player from her country to reach a WTA final at Moscow 2018; to make a Grand Slam quarter-final at the 2020 Australian Open, and to crack the Top 50 a month later; to win a WTA title at Birmingham 2021, paving the way for a Top 10 debut in October last year.

This season began on a negative note for her, though, when the Tunisian was forced to pull out of the Australian Open due to a back injury, but since returning in February, she has gone from strength to strength.

Her overall 2022 record is 36-9, including final appearances in 5 of her last 7 events, and titles at 2 of them, Madrid on clay and Berlin on grass.

Including the latter, Jabeur is now on a her second 10-match winning streak of the year.


Tatjana Maria rallied her slice to take the second set but was over-powered in the third against Ons Jabeur, who advanced to the final

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It was her 4th meeting with Maria, but their first since 2018, and plenty has changed since, with Jabeur now ranked No 2 in the world, and the German a mother to baby Cecilia and 8-year old Charlotte.

“They are adorable kids,” Jabeur said, the familiarity built over barbecues and visits to Maria’s home.

In a superb semi-final on Thursday, resplendent with great variety and twists of momentum, Jabeur, the No 3 seed, triumphed 103 minutes, but it was by no means easy for her.

Maria has enjoyed the best Grand Slam tournament of her career at Wimbledon, just 15 months after giving birth to her second child, and became only the 6th woman aged 34 or over to play in a major semi-final, following in the footsteps of Venus and Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Billie Jean King.

“She has to make me a barbecue now to make up for all the running that I did,” Jabeur joked after the match about the first mother of two to contest a Wimbledon semi-final since Margaret Court, 47 years ago.


Ons Jabeur is determined to continue her history-making in the final against Elena Rybakina on Saturday at Wimbledon

© Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images

The Tunisian handled the occasion superbly, playing with distinction in the first set, and rallying strongly after a strong challenge from Maria, who has enjoyed an outstanding event.

The 3rd seed, who has only dropped 2 sets so far here, breezed through the opener after securing a double break of serve, but Maria used her slice to good effect and responded with a break to take the second.

With the match level, Jabeur gained the upper hand with a break at the start of the decider, then followed it up with another, at 3-0, as Maria sent a simple forehand volley long.

From there, the match was all but sewn up, and Jabeur completed the victory on her 2nd of 3 match points after Maria returned into the net.

“Physically, Tatjana is a beast, she doesn’t give up,” Jabeur said. “I thought she would give up — her touch, her serve and everything on the court is impressive.

“I hope she’s continues this way.

“Let’s not play again I’m good for now!”


Ons Jabeur took Tatjana Maria back onto the Centre Court in a warm gesture of friendship so the crowd could acknowledge her

© Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Maria was no stranger to coming from behind in these Championships, with 4 of her 5 matches going to a 3rd set, and 3 of them lasting over 2 hours.

Those trademark powers of recovery were on full display at the beginning of the second set, when she rallied back to hold from 15-40 down before she finally earned a first break point on Jabeur’s serve.

It had taken the German almost an hour to do the same against compatriot Jule Niemeier in the Last 8, and history repeated itself as Jabeur was broken in the 4th game of the second set after a wonderful exchange of drop-shots and slices.

A double-fault almost let the No 3 seed back in immediately, but supreme defensive skills from Maria, who was making some exceptional lob shots with her back against the wall, clinched another key hold.

Despite a first set point coming and going, largely thanks to some brilliance at the net from Jabeur, the World No 103 did force a decider after one of her more comfortable service games.

A double-handed backhand winner with both feet off the grass showed the Tunisian was ready to fight and, when Maria double-faulted midway through the next game, Jabeur scented blood.

A glorious forehand down the line secured a decisive break and a second followed to send the No 3 seed into a first Grand Slam final.

Jabeur, who hugged her close friend at the net and drew her back onto court for the crowd to acknowledge her too, will play Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina in the final, a surprise 6-3 6-3 winner over 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep.

“I want to say it is a dream come true after years and years of work,” Jabeur said on court. “I am really happy it pays off, and I continue for one more match now.

“I definitely wanted to share the moment with Tatjana at the end because she is such an inspiration for so many players, including me, coming back after two babies. I still can’t believe how she did it.”


The match between Ons Jabeur and Tatjana Maria was full of contrasts and delightful exchanges

© Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

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