Jabeur reaches Wimbledon semifinals, makes more history for Arab tennis
London, Jul 5 (EFE).- Tunisian world No. 2 Ons Jabeur made more history at Wimbledon on Tuesday, defeating the Czech Republic’s Marie Bouzkova 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 to become the first Arab or North African-born player – man or woman – to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam singles event.
A year after she became the first female Arab player to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals, Jabeur stormed back from a slow start to dominate the final two sets against her 66th-ranked opponent.
In the early going of that Centre Court contest, Jabeur tried to dictate the rallies with big hitting from the back of the court and bring Bouzkova forward with her pet weapon – the drop shot.
But her Czech rival was more than up to the task, showing good lateral movement and racket control to defend along the baseline and also reading Jabeur’s drop shots and responding to them with interest.
Bouzkova’s expert scrambling, combined with some loose errors off the racket of Jabeur, caused the Tunisian to drop her serve once in the fifth game and yet again in the ninth game to lose the opening set.
The 23-year-old Czech underdog had gotten off to a near-perfect start, making six unforced errors to Jabeur’s 14, bettering her opponent in terms of first-points won (65 percent to 53 percent) through one set and not getting broken in her first four service games.
But her first-serve effectiveness plummeted dramatically over the final two sets, with Bouzkova only winning six of 19 first-serve points (32 percent) in the second set and just four of 14 (29 percent) in the decider.
That led to her suffering a whopping six service breaks the rest of the way, the first of them coming in the opening game of the second set.
As the match wore on, Jabeur increasingly found her range from the baseline, was more effective with her net approaches and became more lethal with the drop shot.
The No. 3 seed was in full flight when she hit a skidding inside-out backhand on break point to go up 4-0 in the third set.
Although she played a loose game immediately afterward to let Bouzkova on the scoreboard in the decider, she clinched victory two games later when her opponent dumped a forehand return of serve in the net.
“I’m really, really happy, especially that (the historic win) happened on this court because I have so much love for this court, and hopefully the journey for me will continue,” the 27-year-old Tunisian said afterward.
“I knew Marie was going to come and really make me work to win a point. She’s a talented player and I’m really happy that I woke up in the second set and I played much better in the third set.”
Next up for Jabeur in Thursday’s semifinals will be the biggest surprise of the women’s tournament, Germany’s Tatjana Maria, a 34-year-old mother of two who sliced and diced her way to a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory earlier Tuesday over countrywoman Jule Niemaier.
Maria, who is one of Jabeur’s best friends on the WTA Tour, had only reached one Grand Slam third round in 34 previous major singles appearances prior to this fortnight.
“I love Tatjana so much, and her family is really amazing; she’s my barbecue buddy,” Jabeur joked afterward. “It’s going to be tough to play her obviously, but she’s a great friend and I’m really happy for her that she’s in the semifinal. EFE