Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, 2nd in the world, qualified for the Wimbledon final on Thursday by beating Germany’s Tatjana Maria (103rd) 6-2, 3-6, 6-1, becoming the first player from the African continent to reach the final of a Grand Slam tournament in the Open era. “It’s a dream come true after years of hard work and sacrifice. I’m happy that it all finally paid off and that I can play one more match,” said the 27-year-old Tunisian who dropped her first set of the tournament. This next match, her first Grand Slam final, she will play on Saturday against the Romanian Simona Halep (18th), 2019 winner, or the Kazakh Elena Rybakina (23rd).
“She owes me a barbecue for all the races she forced me to do on the court,” Jabeur said of Maria, her friend and “barbecue partner”, as she presented her on Tuesday. The two players also shared a long hug at the net at the end of the meeting. “I wanted to share this moment with her because she is truly an inspiration to so many people, including me,” Jabeur explained in reference to Maria’s successful performance (103rd). The 34-year-old German, mother of two little girls, the last of whom was born less than a year ago, had never passed the third round of a Major.
“In Tunisia, it must be madness right now”
But Jabeur is a model herself. The first player from the Arab world to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam at the Australian Open in 2020, she climbed two more steps this year at Wimbledon. “I’m a proud Tunisian woman today. I know in Tunisia it must be crazy right now. I’m just trying to be an inspiration as much as possible, I want to see more Arab players and Africans on the circuit”, she said before leaving the Center Court. She had just spent 1h43 there to dismiss Maria. The match was rather atypical, old-fashioned, with a lot of placed balls, a lot of sliced balls, including the forehand.
Maria was immediately put under pressure: in the first game she had to save three break points. She got away with it, but conceded her next face-off to let Jabeur come away 2-1 then 3-1. Dominating, Jabeur once again took the opposing service and quietly won the set. In the second set, it was Maria who made the break to lead 3-1. The German had a first set point at 5-2 on Jabeur’s serve, but the Tunisian got away, forcing Maria to serve to equalise. What she did by taking advantage of Jabeur’s 17th unforced error in this single round.
The decisive set was one-sided: Jabeur quickly led 3-0 and, in the fourth game, hanging on, Maria offered her opponent a double break on a smash that seemed without difficulty but which she sent into the tarpaulin . A few minutes later, the Tunisian was delighted with her first Grand Slam final. She remains undefeated this year on grass after her title in Berlin two weeks ago.