Jabeur makes history by booking his last spot at Wimbledon

No. 3 seed trailblazer Ons Jabeur took her all the way to the Wimbledon final after triumphing 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in 1 hour and 43 minutes of fighting against Tatjana Maria.

Jabeur becomes the first Tunisian, the first Arab and the first African to reach a Grand Slam final in the Open era. Over the past four years, she has set records for her country and region; now, having won 22 of her last 24 matches, the 27-year-old has given herself the opportunity to aim for the biggest milestone of them all.

Before Jabeur, the only Tunisian to reach the WTA Top 100 was Selima Sfar, who peaked at No. 75 in July 2001. 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 started on a negative note for Jabeur when she was forced to withdraw from the Australian Open due to a back injury. But since her return in February, she has gone from strength to strength. His overall record in 2022 is 36-9, including last appearances in five of his last seven events and titles in two of them, Madrid on clay and Berlin on grass. Including the latter, Jabeur is now on his second 10-game winning streak of the year.

Maria, 34, leaves Wimbledon after making history. The German, ranked No. 103, was the oldest first-time Grand Slam semi-finalist in the Open Era, the first mother-of-two to make the final four of a major since Margaret Court at Wimbledon 1975 and only the fourth ranked player outside the Top 100 to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals.

Match management: A clash between two of the tour’s most creative players proved to be an old-fashioned delight on center court. Both sought a change of pace, spin, and depth throughout; stabbing abounded, and there were 90 clean spots in total. (Jabeur won 28 of his 38 approaches to the net and Maria 29 of his 52.)

Although two delicious volleys helped Maria escape three break points in the opener of the match, Jabeur continued to dominate the opening set keeping Maria at bay on the return. The world No. 2 beat Maria for 2-1 and again for 5-2 with a terrific assist, and didn’t face a break point herself.

In the second set, Maria urged Jabeur to play the game on his own terms. This made for some jaw-dropping shots, especially an absurd forehand pass by Jabeur from a seemingly impossible position. But with points most often decided by a game of cat and mouse, Maria’s hold on the game grew stronger. She broke for 3-1 with a bunt winner and held that lead until the end of the set.

Maria’s momentum in the second set was also based on a solid serve – she was only three points behind her first delivery. That number fell to 44% in the decider, and Jabeur took full advantage to regain control.

Ditching the cute exchanges that had characterized the second set, Jabeur resumed his first strike with the intention of running away with the third. A jumping backhand winner to seal the first hold signaled his intent; another terrific assist to break the 2-0 underlined that. A terrific three-point scuffle in game four was essentially Maria’s last fight, and she eventually conceded the double break after missing a volley over the baseline.

Three games later, Jabeur served the match quietly, sending a service winner on his second match point to wrap up a historic win.

Jabeur on when she started aiming for the Wimbledon title: “The dream started last year when I enjoyed playing here, I enjoyed the crowd. I hadn’t played so much Wimbledon before. Usually it was the first and second round. It’s hard to play on grass.
I knew I played well on grass because of my game and everything. But last year, Melanie [Maillard] reminded me, my mental trainer, I told him: “I’m coming back next year for the title”, when I lost in the quarter-finals.

“I love everything here, the atmosphere and everything. It was my main focus since the start of the season, and even since last year. Everything about the energy, I love being here.”

Jabeur on the last opponent Elena Rybakina: “She serves really well, so my main goal is to return as many balls as possible, to make her work really hard to win the point. I know she can hit really hard and hit a lot of winners. I know my game could really bother her. I really try to focus more on myself, do a lot of slices, try to make her really work hard.

“I know these type of players usually win the point in two, three shots. For me, I’m just going to go on and do what I do on the pitch.”

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