Ons Jabeur defeated close-friend Tatjana Maria 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in the Wimbledon women’s singles semifinals on Thursday to become the first Arab woman to reach the final of a Grand Slam.
Despite crashing out in the first round of the French Open in May, Jabeur surged back to win the Berlin WTA singles title a few weeks later.
“I’m a proud Tunisian woman standing here,” said the 27-year world No 2, who was the first Arab player to make a Slam semi-final.
Before Thursday, South Africans Irene Bowder Peacock, at the 1927 French Open, and Renee Schuurman, in the 1959 Australian Open, were the only African women to have reached a Slam singles final.
“It’s a dream come true from years of work and sacrifice. I’m happy that’s paid off and I’ll continue for one more match,” said Jabeur.
“Physically, Tatjana 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.
“I know in Tunisia they are going crazy right now. I want to see more Arab and African players on the tour. I love the game and I want to share the experience with them.”
Jabeur coasted through the first set against mother-of-two Maria with breaks in the third and seventh games.
The Tunisian fired 15 winners to her opponent’s six in the first set while not facing a single break point.
However, Maria, described by Jabeur as her “barbecue buddy”, did manage to finally break through for 3-1 in the second set off the back of a series of delicate slices.
Jabeur’s 17 unforced errors in the second set compared to the six of the more accurate German, who levelled the contest.
But there was to be no upset win as the 103rd-ranked Maria’s challenge was quashed.
Jabeur secured a double break for a 5-0 advantage before securing her place in history on a second match point.
Her appearance in the Wimbledon semis – against close friend and “barbecue buddy” Tatjana Maria – came just two weeks after she was forced to withdraw from the Eastbourne tournament, where she was partnering Serena Williams in the doubles, with a knee injury.
Jabeur will face the winner of the second semi-final encounter between 2019 champion Simona Halep and Elena Rybakina.
Inputs from AFP