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‘My dream coming true’: Jabeur beats pal Maria to reach first Wimbledon final

Ons Jabeur won against Tatjana Maria 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 on Thursday afternoon and will face the winner of the match between Kazakh Elena Rybakina, the No 17 seed, and Romanian Simona Halep, the No 16 seed, for the title

Tatjana Maria and Ons Jabeur, Wimbledon 2022 Tatjana Maria and Ons Jabeur, Wimbledon 2022 | © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

It was a well-fought battle on the court – but ended with hugs between two friends, “barbecue buddies”, congratulating each other for a job well done so far this Wimbledon.

It was Ons Jabeur, the No 3 seed, who got past her pal, Tatjana Maria, the 34-year-old mother of two, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. “It’s a dream coming true, from years of work and sacrifice,” said the Tunisian afterwards. “I’m really happy it’s paying off. I’ll continue for one more match now.”

Jabeur is the first female player from Africa to make it to a Grand Slam final. Five African women had previously made it to a semi-final, all South African, and all had lost: Annette Du Plooy at Roland-Garros 1968, Yvonne Vermaak at Wimbledon 1983 and Amanda Coetzer at the Roland-Garros 1997, and at the Australian Open 1996 and 1997.

It was an entertaining encounter reliant on technique and variation, with both using the slice to good effect. The world No 2 allowed Maria back into the match in the second set, with the German using her deft drop shot well – but Jabeur regained her dominance in the decider, with some brilliant passing shots to break serve.

Jabeur : “She has to make me a barbecue now for all the running I had to do”

Jabeur had gone straight to the net after match point to embrace her opponent, and then walked with her to encourage the crowd’s acclaim. Asked by the on-court interviewer if it had been difficult to put their friendship aside, Jabeur replied: “It was more difficult running for her balls. She killed me. She has to make me a barbecue now for all the running I had to do on the court.

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

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur and Germany’s Tatjana Maria after their Wimbledon semi-final match (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

Jabeur will play the winner of the match between Kazakh Elena Rybakina, the No 17 seed, and Romanian Simona Halep, the No 16 seed, in the final on Saturday.

Jabeur won 22 of her 24 latest matches

In the previous rounds, Jabeur, ranked No 2, defeated Swede qualifier Mirjam Bjorklund (6-1, 6-3), Pole qualifier Katarzyna Kawa (6-4, 6-0), Frenchwoman Diane Parry (6-2, 6-3), Belgian Elise Mertens, the No 24 seed (7-6 (9), 6-4) and Czech Marie Bouzkova (3-6, 6-1, 6-1).

She won 22 of her 24 last matches on the Tour. She equals her longest winning streak in WTA main draw matches (11 wins, title in Madrid and final in Rome earlier this year).

German Tatjana Maria made the greatest journey of her life, even if she had previously won two WTA titles. She won against Australian qualifier Astra Sharma (4-6, 6-3, 6-4), Romanian Sorana Cirstea, the No 26 seed (6-3, 1-6, 7-5), Greek Maria Sakkari, the No 5 seed (6-3, 7-5), Latvian Jelena Ostapenko, the No 12 seed, saving match points (5-7, 7-5, 7-5) and Jule Niemeier (4-6, 6-2, 7-5) earlier in the tournament.

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