Wimbledon, July 6
To the many “firsts” that fill Ons Jabeur’s CV, there is a new one: First Arab woman to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament.
The third-seeded Tunisian improved from last year’s quarter-finals at Wimbledon by doing better on Tuesday in the grass-court Grand Slam tournament. She beat Marie Bouzkova 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 on center court.
“It means a lot,” said Jabeur, 27, who is ranked No. 2 in the world. “I had hoped I could get to this stage for a long time already. … I was talking to (former Moroccan player) Hicham Arazi a bit, and he said to me: ‘The Arabs always lose in the quarter-finals and we We’re fed up. Please break this. I was, like, I’ll try, my friend.
She tried and it’s true, she did.
In the semi-finals, Jabeur will face another newcomer at this stage in a major tournament – Tatjana Maria.
The 34-year-old German, who twice took breaks from tennis to have a child, became the oldest Grand Slam semi-finalist of the Open era in her 35th appearance at such a tournament. She beat 22-year-old Jule Niemeier 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 on Court 1.
Jabeur and Maria are good friends.
“I’m really happy for her that she gets what she deserves. I know she struggled a lot,” Jabeur said. “It’s not easy to come back after having two babies. It’s going to be a great game between us, a lot of respect, that’s for sure.
Jabeur has set record after record for Arab players in recent years. She became the first Arab woman to reach the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam tournament in 2020 at the Australian Open. In 2021, she was the first Arab player to break into the top 10 of either the men’s or women’s rankings, then became the first Arab to win a WTA title, and capped it all off with her Wimbledon quarter-final record.
This year, things are going even better for Jabeur on the lawn of the All England Club. She won her first four matches in straight sets and was rarely troubled in any of them.
That changed against Bouzkova, a 23-year-old Czech who had never been to the third round of a major tournament. Bouzkova’s good start, however, did not last in the second set.
“She gets all the balls and doesn’t make it easy for me to win a point,” Jabeur said.
“I’m happy to have interfered in my game. I was more aggressive in the second set, and especially tactically, I was playing angles that she didn’t like very much.
Maria also lost the first set before recovering to win the next two. The victory makes her the sixth woman to reach the Wimbledon semi-finals after turning 34.
The previous five women – Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Venus Williams and Serena Williams – have won a combined 30 titles at the All England Club during their careers.
“To be part of such a great list of players is incredible,” said Maria, who had only reached the third round of a major tournament once before – at Wimbledon in 2015. say, having my name in the same place, yeah, I still can’t believe it, really.
Maria is making her 10th appearance at the All England Club – her participation has been interrupted twice to have children. His first daughter was born in 2013 and the second in 2021.
Tennis, despite that incredible run at Wimbledon, has taken precedence over family since the kids arrived.
“I think for me it’s the most important thing in my life, being the mother of my two children. Nothing will change that,” Maria said.
“I’m in the Wimbledon semi-finals, it’s crazy, but I’m still a mum. After that, I’ll go over there and see my kids and do the same thing I do every day. .
Maria was ranked outside of the top 250 as recently as March, but has slipped back to No. 103.
She returned from her second maternity leave about a year ago and lost in the first round of the US Open. At majors this year, she lost in the first round at the Australian Open and the French Open.
“I always believed that I had something inside, I mean, that I could do it,” Maria said.
“I’ve always believed in it, but to be here in this place now…a year ago I gave birth to my second daughter. If someone told me a year later that you’re half – Wimbledon final, it’s crazy.