When Ons Jabeur sealed the match point making her the first Arab to reach a Wimbledon grand slam final, she could only think of rushing to her conquered barbecue buddy at the net to give Tatjana Maria the biggest hugs.
Most important points:
- Elena Rybakina is the youngest Wimbledon finalist in women’s singles since 2017
- Rybakina overpowered 2019 champion Simona Halep in straight sets
- Ons Jabeur also advanced to the final and aims to be the first African and Arab woman in the professional era to win a grand slam title
While Jabeur’s coach Issam Jellali jumped with arms raised to join 15,000 cheering fans as they greeted the first African woman to reach the title match, Jabeur simply smiled as she finished Maria’s remarkable run with a 6-2, 3-6 , 6-1 win.
On the eve of the match, Jabeur had sworn that the “hug at the end will be great” and she was not wrong.
The two players held each other across the net for what seemed like an eternity, and both whispered into each other’s ears.
With cheers still ringing through Center Court, Jabeur Maria pulled over to her side of the court and joined the applause to greet a 34-year-old who had become the first mother of two in a Wimbledon semi-final since Margaret Court in 1975 .
“I don’t know what to say. It’s a dream come true after years of work and sacrifice,” Jabeur said as she set up a final against co-first finalist Elena Rybakina, who defeated 2019 champion Simona Halep 6-3. 6-3.
She then paid tribute to Maria, whose heavy slab — sometimes from both sides — had seduced her adversaries as she put on an incredible mammoth murderous run through the women’s draw.
“It was harder to run for her balls. Now she has to make me a barbecue for all the running I’ve done on the field,” said Jabeur.
“I wanted to share the moment with her at the end because she’s such an inspiration to so many people, including me, and coming back after two babies, I can’t believe how she did it.
“Physically Tatyana is a beast, she doesn’t give up.”
While Jabeur’s victory was a great moment of sportsmanship and friendship, her victory means even more to a generation that Jabeur is actively trying to inspire.
Before the players take the field, American great Billie Jean King said that Jabeur “used tennis as a platform to help Tunisia, help Africa and help Arabs” and the Tunisian did just that when she defeated Maria for the first time in a major Tour-level competition.
“I am a proud Tunisian woman standing here today. I know they are going crazy in Tunisia now,” said the third seed who had never made it past the last eight in a major until this week.
“I’ve seen some juniors play there and I hope to see them here at Center Court someday.”
While 27-year-old Jabeur set out to inspire a continent, Maria wants to show her two young daughters that it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
The Australian court was among those watching from the Royal Box as Maria had to save three break points in the opening match.
The 103rd German was unable to extend that resistance as she dropped the serve in the third and seventh games before Jabeur sealed the opening set when Maria hit a long backhand.
However, Maria refused to hand the win on a saucer to an opponent she calls “family” as she broke a 3-1 lead in the second and held onto that advantage to equalize when the third seed cut a backhand into the net.
But Jabeur eventually lived up to her world number two ranking to run away with the third set, taking the most important point of her career so far when Maria swept a forehand into the net.
Rybakina rolls Halep with ease
In the final, Jabeur will face Rybakina from Kazakhstan, who is also the first player from her country to reach a grand slam singles final.
A day after dominating Australian Ajla Tomljanovic late in their quarterfinals, Rybakina did the same against 2019 Wimbledon champion Halep in a 6-3, 6-3 win.
Rybakina, who dropped only one set this tournament, against Tomlajnovic, gave Halep little chance throughout the match, being broken only once, early in the second set.
It was Rybakina’s serve that caused the most damage throughout the match, while Halep’s own serve hurt her just as much.
A litany of double errors gave Rybakina opportunities at key moments, which she took advantage of.
Rybakina said she couldn’t believe the result and her high level in the competition.
“I’m very happy with my performance because I think I played really solid today,” said Rybakina.
#Jabeur #history #inspiration #Wimbledon #final