Ons Jabeur wrote another historic chapter in her trailblazing career after battling into the Wimbledon final by beating Germany's Tatjana Maria in three sets.
With both players into their first Grand Slam semi-finals, this match-up between two close friends meant only one could continue their remarkable Wimbledon story to Saturday.
Jabeur was hoping to become the first Arab and North African to reach a major final, while 34-year-old Maria was aiming to follow Evonne Goolagong Cawley in becoming just the second mother to win Wimbledon in the Open era.
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And ultimately, it was to be Jabeur’s day, the Tunisian No. 3 seed winning through 6-2 3-6 6-1 to book a final against either 2019 winner Simona Halep or No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina – with that semi-final up next on Centre Court.
“I really don’t know what to say. It’s a dream come true. I’m really happy that [the sacrifice] is paying off. I [will] continue for one more match!" she said on-court.
“I’m a proud Tunisian woman standing here today. I know in Tunisia they’re going crazy right now. Hopefully, I [can] inspire as many as I can… not just Tunisian, Arab, African players… I just love the game and I want to share this experience with them.”
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Jabeur and Maria are great friends off court. Maria had called her “Aunt Ons” in a recent interview, while Jabeur said her opponent was also her "BBQ buddy", but that had to be put to one side going into the pair’s first semi-final on the Grand Slam stage.
And come the match, it was Jabeur who had a couple of break opportunities in the first game, but Maria battled to hold her opening service.
Nevertheless, Jabeur remained the dominant force early on, and got the break her fast start warranted when converting her fourth chance two games later.
Despite a first-serve percentage at just 41, Jabeur stayed on top, breaking again in the seventh game before sealing the opening set 6-2 with a hold to love.
Jabeur, who won the warm-up event in Berlin but then withdrew from Eastbourne with a knee injury, had only dropped one set at these Championships heading into the semi.
Maria, however, would not give up without a fight, and having already beaten three seeds along the way – including No. 5 Maria Sakkari in the third round – she rallied to save break points in the second set before breaking herself to take a 4-1 lead.
Tunisia's Ons Jabeur (R) hugs her friend Germany's Tatjana Maria after beating her during their women's singles semi final
Image credit: Getty Images
The German even had a shot at a second break, but despite squandering that she safely served out for the set a game later, setting up a decider that had perhaps not looked possible half-an-hour earlier.
A flying forehand winner from Jabeur got the third set off to a flashy start, and she took that momentum with her when breaking in the following game.
Maria was trailing 3-0 in the third set for the second time at Wimbledon this year, and was therefore hoping to repeat the heroics that saw her fight back to oust No. 26 seed Sorana Cîrstea in the second round.
Jabeur, though, was looking a cut above, securing the double break before converting her second match point on serve to seal an emphatic third set 6-1.
A long embrace followed at the net, with Jabeur then ensuring Maria got her share of Centre Court’s applause after an incredible run came to an end.
“I think it was more difficult running for her balls; she killed me!" Jabeur added. "She has to make me a barbecue to make up for all the running I did on the court! I definitely wanted to share the moment with her at the end because she’s such an inspiration for so many players, [especially] coming back from having two babies.
“Physically, she is a beast; she doesn’t give up [at] any point. She made me run for a lot of points; I thought she’d get tired [eventually] but she didn’t. Her touch, her serve… everything on the court is really impressive. I hope she continues playing this way. Let’s not play again, I’m good for now!”
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Watch daily highlights from Wimbledon at 10pm on Eurosport 2 and discovery+ from June 27, as well as the two singles finals live on July 9 and 10.
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