• Sat. Nov 26th, 2022

Wimbledon: Jabeur defeats Maria to become the first Arab in a major final

ByMary M. Ward

Jul 7, 2022

When Ons Jabeur sealed the match point that made her the first Arab to reach a Grand Slam final at Wimbledon on Thursday, all she could think about was rushing to her defeated barbecue buddy at the net to give to Tatjana Maria the tightest of hugs.

As Jabeur’s coach, Issam Jellali, jumped to his feet with his arms raised to join 15,000 cheering fans in hailing the first African woman to reach the title match, Jabeur simply smiled as he ended the Maria’s remarkable run with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 win.

She then immediately turned to fulfilling a wish she had made on the eve of the pageant – that the ‘hug at the end will be amazing’. She wasn’t wrong.

The two players stood across the net for what seemed like an eternity, both whispering in each other’s ears.

As cheers still echoed around the stands, Jabeur pulled Maria to her side of the court and joined in the applause to greet the 34-year-old German who had become the first mother of two in a Wimbledon semi-final since Margaret Court in 1975.

” I do not know what to say. It’s a dream come true after years of hard work and sacrifice. I’m glad it paid off and I’ll continue for one more match,” Jabeur told the crowd after setting up a final showdown with Russian-born Kazakh 17th seed Elena Rybakina.

“Physically, Tatjana is a beast, she doesn’t give up… she has to barbecue me for all the races I’ve done on the field!” joked Jabeur, who is called “Aunt Ons” by Maria’s eldest daughter, Charlotte.

Maria’s unexpected performance was the good story of these championships, the German, who was ranked outside the top 300 in January, finally made the final four of a Grand Slam at the 49th attempt.

In fact, prior to this week, her best showing at a major tournament was a solo third-round run at the All England Club in 2015. Of her previous 48 attempts, she hasn’t even made it past qualifying 14 times.

“I wanted to share the moment with Tatjana at the end because she’s such an inspiration to so many people, including me, coming back after having two babies, I can’t believe how she did it.

“Let’s not play anymore, I’m good for now!”

PROUD TUNISIAN

Before the players took to the court, American great Billie Jean King said Jabeur “used tennis as a platform to help Tunisia, help Africa and help the Arabs” and that’s exactly what that the 27-year-old beat Maria for the first time in a Tour-level main event.

“I’m a proud Tunisian woman to be here today – I know in Tunisia they’re going crazy right now,” said the third seed.

“I just try to inspire as much as I can – I want to see more Arab and African players on the circuit, I love the game and I want to share the experience with them.

“I’ve seen juniors play there and I hope to see them here on center court one day.”

While Jabeur, 27, wanted to inspire a continent, Maria wants to show her two young daughters that it’s never too late to make her dreams come true.

Australia’s big yard was among those watching from the Royal Box as Maria was forced to save three break points in the opener.

However, the 103rd-ranked German was unable to extend that resistance as she lost serve in the third and seventh games before Jabeur sealed the first set when Maria slammed a long backhand.

Jabeur often caught Maria off guard with an abundance of trick drop shots and angled slices. However, when she pulled off a spectacular effort spinning 360 degrees, the German chased her down to win the point.

Maria refused to give the victory on a plateau to an opponent she calls ‘family’ as she broke for a 3-1 lead in the second and held on to that advantage to equalize when the third seeded series sliced ​​another backhand in the net.

But Jabeur finally lived up to his world number two as he ran away with the third set and scored the most important point of his career to date when Maria slipped a forehand into the net.