Wimbledon | Jabeur makes more history getting past Bouzkova into Last 4

Ons Jabeur kept alive her ambition of winning Wimbledon when she came back from losing the first set against Marie Bouzkova to win her quarter-final match at The Championships, 3-6 6-1 6-1, on Tuesday.

I was really tight at the beginning of the first set and I didn’t make my shots. I wasn’t feeling like it was me really playing... She gets all the balls and doesn’t make, to win a point, easy for me. I’m glad I stepped in with my game. I was more aggressive in the second set, and especially, tactically, I was playing some angles that she didn’t like much. Ons Jabeur

There are already many ‘firsts’ in the Jabeur résumé, and she can add another as she becomes the first Arab woman, or North African player, to reach the semi-finals at a Grand Slam, having bettered her run to quarters here last year.

“It means a lot,” said 27-year-old Jabeur, who is ranked No 2 in the world. “I’m trying to inspire the new generation.

“We know we have a lot of talented players. We have great tournaments in Tunisia, not just juniors but a lot of other ones. I hope this could push them more to do better.

She smiled, and added: “I was hoping that I could get to this stage for a long time already.

“I was talking a little bit to [[Moroccan ATP former World No 22 and 4-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist]] Hicham Arazi, and he told me, ‘Arabs always lose in the quarter-finals and we are sick of it. Please break this.’ I was, like, I’ll try, my friend.

“We were just texting, and he was really happy. He was, like, ‘Thank you for finally making the semi-final. Now you can really go and get the title’.”

The Tunisian became the first Arab woman to reach the quarter-finals at a Grand Slam in 2020, at the Australian Open, and in 2021, she was the first Arab player to break into the top 10 of the men’s or women’s rankings, then became the first Arab to win a WTA title in Birmingham.

This year, things are going even better for her on the grass at the All England Club, where she has won her first 4 matches in straight sets, and was rarely troubled in any of them.

Marie Bouzkova dominated the opening set but fell away as Ons Jabeur found her game to win through on Centre Court

© Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Jabeur was slow to start against Bouzkova, though, dropping her first set of the tournament in the face of an inspired Czech opponent, who was bidding to upset her 3rd seeded player this fortnight, before recovering in sets two and three, in which she broke serve 6 times in total to rally for a 1 hour, 47-minute win.

“I knew Marie was going to come and really make me work to win a point,” Jabeur said. “She’s a talented player and I’m really happy that I woke up in the second set and I played much better in the third set.”

Bouzkova, who is ranked 66, endeared herself to the Centre Court crowd with both her play and her demeanour, especially the sunny smile that broke through from time to time, revealing just how much she was enjoying the experience.

The 23-year old Czech had never been to the 3rd-round at a major tournament before, and she started strongly, taking full advantage of Jabeur’s early jitters to take the opening set.

Drawing first blood, Bouzkova broke Jabeur for a 3-2 lead and swatted away 2 break points to hold for 5-3, finding an answer for every Jabeur trick, and the Czech sealed the set in 41 minutes on a netted volley from the Tunisian.

It was the first set dropped by Jabeur this fortnight and she responded in strong fashion, opening the second with a break of serve to carve a 2-0 gap.

“I was really tight at the beginning of the first set and I didn’t make my shots,” Jabeur said later. “I wasn’t feeling like it was me really playing.

“You have to take it each point at a time, each game at a time.

“She gets all the balls and doesn’t make, to win a point, easy for me,” Jabeur said. “I’m glad I stepped in with my game.

“I was more aggressive in the second set, and especially, tactically, I was playing some angles that she didn’t like much.”

Jabeur admitted it had been difficult to find her range early on, but added that her game had come to her as the match wore on.

“I think I played really good from beginning of the second set, especially having an early break, kind of, helps me gain me the confidence,” Jabeur said. “I know it wasn’t easy playing Marie.”

A Bouzkova double-fault in game five extended Jabeur’s advantage and the 27-year-old soon levelled the match to force a decider.

Ons Jabeur dropped just 2 games in wining the 2nd and 3rd sets against Marie Bouzkova

© Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The turning point came in the 2nd game of the final set when Bouzkova won a high-speed volley duel at the net, despite falling to the ground halfway through it.

From 40-15 down, though, Jabeur took the next 7 points to move ahead 3-0 and, with another break in the bag, the No 3 seed slammed down an ace to get triple match point, and sealed the deal with another great serve, making history for her entire region.

Jabeur struck 30 winners to 27 unforced errors during the course of the match, and cleaned up her shot-making against Bouzkova’s high quality defence after falling a set behind.

While the Tunisian made 14 errors to her 10 winners in the opener, she hit more winners than errors in the second and third sets, winning 8 straight games from 2-1 in the second set and, after dropping serve to love in the 5th game of the decider, rebounded to win 8 of the last 9 points.

“Despite the loss, I enjoyed it so much – my first-ever quarter-final at a Slam here in Wimbledon, my favourite tournament, playing on the Centre Court,” a philosophical Bouzkova said afterwards. “Every point was a battle.

“She took the momentum with her at the beginning of both sets. I’m just proud about so many positives from this week.

“Being able to do it against these great players gives me belief that I can take out my best game against them. That’s a really big step forward for me.”

Ons Jabeur will meet her good friend and 'barbecue buddy' Tatjana Maria in the semi-final on Thursday for a place in The Championship final

© Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

In the semi-finals, Jabeur will face another newcomer to this stage at a major, her good friend Tatjana Maria, whom she describes as her ‘barbecue buddy’.

The 34-year-old German, who twice took breaks from tennis to have a child, became the oldest first-time Grand Slam semi-finalist in the Open era in her 35th appearance when she defeated her compatriot, 22-year-old Jule Niemeier, 4-6 6-2 7-5, on No 1 Court, earlier on Tuesday.

“I’m really happy for her, that she’s getting what she deserves. I know she struggled a lot,” Jabeur said. “It’s not easy coming back after having two babies.”

Maria also lost the first set before recovering to win in three, while her win made her only the 6th woman to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals after turning 34 years old.

The previous 5 women, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Venus Williams and Serena Williams, won a combined 30 titles at the All England Club in their careers.

“To be in a list of such great players, it’s amazing,” said Maria. “I mean, to have my name in the same spot, yeah, I still cannot believe it, really.”

Maria is chasing some history of her own, her run through Wimbledon so far, potentially, setting her up to become just the second mother to win Wimbledon, after Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980.

Her first daughter, Charlotte, born in 2013, has been watching her play her matches, while 14-month-old Cecilia was elsewhere.

Jabeur, though, who played doubles with Serena Williams as part of her Wimbledon build-up, is hoping she can go one better when she faces Maria.

“I love Tatjana so much, and her family is so amazing,” the 27-year-old said. “She is my barbecue buddy so it will be tough to play her, obviously, but she is a great friend, and I am really happy she is in the semi-final.”

En route to reaching the Wimbledon semi-final, Maria defeated Niemeier, Astra Sharma, Sorana Cirstea, Maria Sakkari and Jelena Ostapenko.

“It’s so nice to see her with her babies on tour,” Jabeur added. “The fact that she really came back and did everything and, really, she deserves to be here.

“She had a really tough draw, winning against Ostapenko, winning against Sakkari. Really, she played really good. I know she could play really good on grass.”

Jabeur leads their 2-1 head-to-head record but she won’t be taking the 103-ranked German for granted when they meet on Thursday.

“Obviously it’s tough to play her and I was joking with Charlotte, I was telling her, ‘Are you going to support me or your mom?’ I’m trying to turn all the kids to my side!

“It’s going to be a great match between us, a lot of respect, for sure.”

Marie Bouzkova endeared herself with her ready smile and brilliant play against Tunisia's Ons Jabeur on Tuesday

© Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images



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