Ons Jabeur in action during women’s singles quarter-final match vs Marie Bouzkova at Wimbledon 2022.© AFP
World number two Ons Jabeur became the first Arab woman to reach the semi-final of a Grand Slam on Tuesday, setting up a Wimbledon meeting with her “barbeque buddy” Tatjana Maria. The Tunisian went one set down to Czech opponent Marie Bouzkova but lost only two games after that as she powered to a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 win on Centre Court. Earlier, mother-of-two Maria also dug deep to beat German compatriot Jule Niemeier 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 despite losing the first set and trailing by a break in the second and third sets.
Jabeur is the only remaining player seeded in the top 15 left in the tournament at the All England Club.
The 27-year-old said she was happy that she “woke up” after a disappointing first set.
“I am really, really happy especially that it happened on this court because I have so much love for this court,” she said. “Hopefully the journey for me will continue.”
But she explained that it would be difficult to face 34-year-old Maria, whom she described as her “barbeque buddy”.
She added: “It is going to be tough to play her (Maria), she is a great friend. I am really happy she is in a semi-final — look at her now, she is in a semi-final after having two babies. It is an amazing story.”
The Tunisian, who had not lost a set in her run to the quarter-finals, was broken twice by the 66th-ranked Bouzkova in the first set.
But it was a different story for the rest of the match as she broke her opponent’s serve six times, hitting 30 winners — more than twice her opponent’s tally.
Germany’s Maria, ranked 103, came back from maternity leave less a year ago after the birth of her second daughter.
In Tuesday’s match — only the third all-German Grand Slam quarter-final in the Open era — an early break for Niemeier proved decisive in the first set.
The 22-year-old then broke again at the start of the second set to take an iron grip on the match but Maria stormed back, breaking three times to level the match.
World number 97 Niemeier again drew first blood in the deciding set, breaking in the fifth game and holding serve to lead 4-2.
But Maria hit back to level at 4-4 and broke again in the 12th game to seal the victory in two hours and 18 minutes.
The German veteran, who saved two match points in the previous round against 12th seed Jelena Ostapenko, made her Grand Slam debut in 2007 and had never progressed beyond the third round at a major before this year’s Wimbledon.
But she said she always had faith in her ability to do something special despite her uninspiring record in the Slams.
“To be now here in this spot — I mean, like I said, one year ago I gave birth to my second daughter — if somebody would tell me one year later ‘you are in a semi-final of Wimbledon’, that’s crazy,” she said.
Even before her quarter-final on Tuesday it was business as usual for Maria, who took her eight-year-old daughter to tennis practice and said she would be changing nappies for her 15-month-old baby after her win.
“Outside of the court, I mean, nothing changes for me for a moment, so I try to keep this going, everything the same,” she said. “We keep going even if I play semi-finals.”
On Wednesday, Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina will face Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic for a place in the semi-finals while Romanian former winner Simona Halep takes on American Amanda Anisimova.
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