There was a time, a year ago; It’s even been six months since Ons Jabeur might not have recovered from the deficit he found himself in during the Wimbledon semifinals. Down a set. Down a break in the second set. So close to just being a game of defeat.
She credits a sports psychologist with helping her understand how to deal with those situations on the court, keeping her focus, keeping her shots on target. Thanks in part to that, and stability down the stretch on Center Court on Thursday, Jabeur is on course for a second successive final at the All England Club and her third title match in the last five Grand Slam tournaments.
Now she wants to win a trophy. Jabeur, the sixth seed, earned the right to play for one again by beating heavy hitter Aryna Sabalenka 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3.
«I’m very proud of myself, because maybe my old man would have lost the game today and come home already. But I’m glad I kept digging really deep and finding the strength,» said Jabeur, a 28-year-old. an elderly woman from Tunisia who was already the only Arab woman and the only North African to reach a grand final.
«I’m learning to turn bad energy into good energy,» Jabeur said, explaining that he was able to get over the anger he felt after the first set. «Some things I have no control over: She can have an ace at any time. She can make a big serve, even if I have a break point. That’s a little frustrating. But I’m glad I’m accepting it and digging in. deep to go and win this match and hopefully this tournament.»
ONLY 5% OF PLAYERS AT WIMBLEDON HAVE A FEMALE COACH AND THE WTA IS LOOKING TO CHANGE THAT
To do that, Jabeur will need to get past Marketa Vondrousova, a lefty from the Czech Republic, on Saturday. Vondrousova became the first unseeded women’s finalist at Wimbledon since Billie Jean King in 1963 by eliminating Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3.
Like Jabeur, Vondrousova has been to a grand final before. Like Jabeur, she never won one, as she was runner-up at the 2019 French Open when she was a teenager.
«We are both hungry,» Jabeur said.
So far, Jabeur is 0-2 in Grand Slam finals. She lost to Elena Rybakina at the All England Club last July and to Iga Swiatek at the US Open last September.
Jabeur’s victory over No. 2 Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion in January, followed victories against three other major title winners: No. 3 Rybakina, No. 9 Petra Kvitova and Bianca Andreescu.
«I want my path to be worthwhile,» Jabeur said.
Thursday’s victory, which came by accumulating 10 of the last 13 games, prevented Sabalenka from replacing Swiatek at number 1 in the ranking.
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«I had so many opportunities,» said Sabalenka, a 25-year-old Belarusian who was not allowed to compete at Wimbledon last year because all players from her country and Russia were banned because of the war in Ukraine. «Overall, I didn’t play my best tennis today. It was like a combination of everything. A bit of nerves, a bit of luck for her on some points.»
Jabeur trailed 4-2 in the second set when things began to turn around. But not before Sabalenka was within a point of leading 5-3 after Jabeur hit a forehand into the net and fell backward onto Center Court grass.
He dusted himself off and broke to take that game and start the comeback. As he delivered a backhand return winner to force the match into a third set, Jabeur put his right index finger to his ear, then lifted and flicked it as he strutted toward the exchange.
Sabalenka’s shots repeatedly missed. He finished with far more unforced errors than Jabeur: the margins were 14-5 in the final set and 45-15 in the match.
«I was a bit down emotionally, then she went up,» said Sabalenka, who hit 10 aces but also hit five double faults.
A break put Jabeur up 4-2 in the third, but there was still work to be done. Sabalenka, one of the best ball hitters on tour, erased four match points before Jabeur converted his fifth with a 103mph ace.
In the first semifinal, 43rd-ranked Vondrousova made it seven straight games in one stretch against 76th-ranked Svitolina, who returned from her maternity leave just three months ago. After upsetting Swiatek in the quarterfinals, she was trying to become the first woman from Ukraine to reach the title match at a major tennis tournament.
Svitolina received strong support from thousands of people in the main stadium (the Ukrainian ambassador to Britain was in the royal box) as applause and shouts echoed through the closed roof.
Svitolina says she plays more calmly these days, something she attributed to the dual motivations of playing for her baby daughter, who was born in October, and playing for her home country, where the ongoing war began in February 2022. when Russia invaded with help. from Belarus
«It’s a lot of responsibility, a lot of tension. I try to balance as much as I can. Sometimes, maybe it’s too much,» Svitolina said. «But I don’t want to (make it) an excuse.»
Vondrousova missed about six months last season due to two operations on her left wrist. She visited England last year with an arm in a cast to enjoy London as a tourist and watch her best friend and doubles partner Miriam Kolodziejova try to qualify for Wimbledon.
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«It’s not always easy to come back. You don’t know if you can play at this level and if you can come back to the top and come back to these tournaments,» Vondrousova said. «I feel like I’m grateful to be on a court again, to play without pain.»