After seeing her dream of becoming the first Arab and African woman to win Wimbledon cut short a year ago, the Tunisian Ons Jabeur qualified again on Thursday for the final, where she will face the Czech Marketa Vondrousova.
The 28-year-old world number 6 managed to turn a match that seemed against her to beat the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-3 in two hours and 19 minutes.
The charismatic Jabeur, who is a star in Tunisia, where she is nicknamed “the minister of joy” for her inexhaustible good humor, wants to be an example for women and girls in Arab and African countries.
He already aspired to be crowned on the grass in London in 2022 but lost the final against Elena Rybakina.
This year, the Tunisian claimed her personal revenge by eliminating the Kazakh in the quarterfinals, with a combination of determination, mixed shots and control of her emotions.
The same formula that in the semifinal led her to overcome the powerful game of Sabalenka, the world number two.
“It was very difficult to receive their blows and their serves,” she said, assuring that the support of the public “kept her playing.”
“I’m very proud because the old version of myself might have lost this game and would be going home” but the new one “managed to find the strength,” turning around what was going on inside.
“I’m learning to transform negative energy into positive,” she said.
This semifinal was the confrontation between two totally opposite styles: Sabalenka pure physical power and little variety, Jabeur multitude of nuances, soft touches and changes of rhythm.
Each one with their weapons slowed down the adversary for a long time, reaching an inevitable tie-break that was determined more by nerves and mistakes than by successes.
Then both players released their game, but the Tunisian managed to prevail at key points. “She played in an incredible way” and also “there was a bit of luck,” the Belarusian later considered.
I was “digging deep to win this match and hopefully the tournament,” Jabeur said.
To do this, however, he will have to overcome the dangerous Czech, 24 years old and number 42 in the world, who this Thursday already put an end to the dream of the Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.
She was aiming to give her war-torn country a victory, reaching the Grand Slam final on grass three months after returning to competition after giving birth in October.
But, despite her desire and aggressiveness, the former number 3 who now plays in position 76, was powerless against the game of the Czech, faster, more accurate, with a better serve, fewer errors and greater confidence near the grid.
“Very disappointed” to concede this 3-6, 3-6 defeat in just over an hour, after knocking out world number one Iga Swiatek in the quarterfinals, the Ukrainian acknowledged she had not “played her best tennis “.
It is Svitolina’s third loss in the semifinals of a Grand Slam, after Wimbledon and the US Open in 2019, and she said she was sorry that she had not brought joy to her war-torn country.
“It was obviously a great source of motivation, but also a lot of responsibility and a source of tension,” he admitted, although he said he did not want to use it “as an excuse.”
Vondrousova, who already played in the Roland Garros final in 2019 and recently recovered from a wrist operation, explained that she was “very nervous the whole game” against Svitolina, who “is a great fighter.”
“I’m very grateful to be here, to be in good health and to be playing tennis again,” she said.
For Jabeur, the moment of victory could go through another rematch.
“Marketa is a great, great player and I’ve already lost to her twice this year, so I’m going for a rematch as it seems to be working,” joked the Tunisian, visibly excited to see herself again in the final at the All London England Club.