Tennis

Ons Jabeur Makes History as First African Woman to Reach Wimbledon Final

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur (R) hugs her friend Germany’s Tatjana Maria after beating her during their women’s singles semi final tennis match on the eleventh day of the 2022 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 7, 2022. – (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

Spiraling in the spin cycle, Ons Jabeur faced a tense final-set test on Centre Court.

The Tunisian trailblazer met the moment with elevation and elation.

Firing her forehand with accuracy, Jabeur beat buddy Tatjana Maria 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 to become the first Tunisian, first Arab and first African woman to reach a major final at Wimbledon.

In a solo sport, Jabeur is a crowd-pleasing player because of her shot-making creativity and her sense of playing for something greater than herself.

“I’m a proud Tunisian woman standing here today,” Jabeur said in her on-court interview. “I know in Tunisia they’re going crazy right now.

“Hopefully, I just try to inspire as much as I can. I just want to see more Tunisian, Arab, African players on tour. I just love the game. I just want to share this experience with them.”

It is the 11th consecutive grass-court win for Jabeur, who tuned up for Wimbledon winning her second career grass crown in Berlin. Jabeur will face Elena Rybakina in Saturday’s Centre Court final. The 17th-seeded Rybakina ripped four aces in a 6-3, 6-3 sweep of 2019 champion Simona Halep in today’s second semifinal.

The second-ranked Jabeur realized a lifelong dream and shared the celebration with her friend. Jabeur and Maria are good friends who often break bread together.

After the 34-year-old German’s final return expired in net, Jabeur engaged in an extended embrace with the world No. 103 then dragger Maria back onto court for a well-deserved curtain call.

It was pure class from a woman who has played this Wimbledon with grit and gratitude.

Ons the way to a first Grand Slam final 🇹🇳@Ons_Jabeur defeats Tatjana Maria 6-2, 3-6, 6-1#Wimbledon | #CentreCourt100 pic.twitter.com/tnNObItxw3

— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 7, 2022

“It’s a dream coming true from years and years of work and sacrifice,” Jabeur said in her on-court interview. “I’m really happy it’s paying off and I continue for one more match now.

“I think it was more difficult running for her balls—she killed me. She has to make me a barbecue now to make up for all the running. I definitely wanted to share a moment with her at the end because she’s such an inspiration for so many players including me. Coming back after having two babies I still can’t believe she did it.”

On a day that saw scandal-scarred British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resign, the woman dubbed “Minister of Happiness” in her homeland reigned amid severe third-set pressure and shared the joy.

“We are really good friends. Like I said, she’s part of our family,” Maria said of Jabeur. “It was really nice from her that at the end she wanted to celebrate with me even though it was her moment. For her, it’s almost the first time to be in a Grand Slam final. Yeah, I think it was her moment, but she wanted to celebrate it with me, what makes it also really special.

“Yeah, like I said, I mean, she’s such a great person. She really deserves it. I’m really happy for her, too.”

The Jabeur slice serve slithers low on lawn and her quick-action serve motion makes direction difficult to read. Jabeur, who was sucked into too many touch exchanges with Maria in the second set, went back to basics and re-established her serve-forehand combination to surge through five straight games in the third set. Jabeur won 16 of 19 points played on her serve in the decider and did not face a single break point.

Jabeur improved to a WTA-best 13-4 in three-setters this season.

In a match of maiden major semifinalists, nerves figured to be a factor. Both women worked out the jitters during a lengthy opening game that spanned all areas of Centre Court.

This was throwback tennis popping with slices, drop shots and attacking play from both women who combined for 90 trips to net.

The opening game gave a glimpse of the finesse festival to follow. Jabeur twice hit drop shot returns and wielded a side-spinning slice forehand for a third break point. Maria saved it grinding through an eight-minute hold to open this semifinal.

The Maria slice slithers low and set up opportunities for her topspin forehand in prior matches. Today, Jabeur went slice for slice early and sometimes attacked the German’s one-handed backhand with diagonal forehands forcing Maria to pass with her weaker wing.

A double fault and netted slice from Maria saw her cede the first break in the third game. Jabeur clipped a backhand down the line progressing through a deuce hold for 3-1.

The world No. 2 owns a more explosive forehand and used it testing Maria to deuce in her first four service games. A slick, spinning half-volley from Jabeur highlighted a seventh game that saw her nullify a serve-and-volley bid to break again for 5-2.

The Berlin champion burst through the first love hold of the match to take a one-set lead after 38 minutes. Jabeur nearly tripled Maria’s winner output—15 to 6—and did not face a break point in the set.

Outplayed for the first set, Maria kept calm and continued probing with touch and angle. Earning her first break point of the day, Maria read a meek Jabeur drop shot that sat up and shoveled an angld reply breaking for 3-1.

Last July, Maria returned to the Tour following the birth of her second child. The 34-year-old German knows all about major berth pains: Maria had lost eight straight Grand Slam openers prior to this wondrous Wimbledon run.

Showing patient point construction, Maria backed up the break for 4-1.

The 27-year-old Tunisian saved set point poking a high forehand volley behind her opponent in the eighth game. Still, Jabeur was missing more first serves and sailing her favored forehand. Jabeur jabbed an ace and slid an angled backhand pass holding to force Maria to serve out the second set.

“This shot should be impossible”

A ridiculous winner by @Ons_Jabeur 😱#Wimbledon | #CentreCourt100 pic.twitter.com/3eunp1c2Fx

— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 7, 2022

The sixth woman in the Open Era to reach the Wimbledon semifinal since turning 34, Maria served out the second set at 15.

Facing final-set pressure with a trip to the Wimbledon final on the line, Jabeur went back to basics. Putting the drop shot in her pocket, Jabeur was firing her forehand with more ambition. The Tunisian rolled a crosscourt forehand pass breaking in the second game then lashed a series of damaging forehands confirming the break for 3-0.

Maria tried to stall her slide moving forward but badly bungled a routine high forehand volley to drop serve again in the fourth game.

Serving for the biggest final of her life, Jabeur dragged a forehand pass wide on her first match point. On her second match point, the world No. 2 closed with a wide smile when her friend flashed a forehand return into the top of the tape.

There was no elaborate celebration from Jabeur, who engaged Maria in an extended embrace and then dragged her barbecue buddy back out onto the middle of the court for a well-deserved curtain call from fans.



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