Ons Jabeur becomes first Arab woman to reach grand slam final with Wimbledon victory over Tatjana Maria

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Ons Jabeur celebrates victory - AFP
Ons Jabeur celebrates victory - AFP

Ons Jabeur reached the Wimbledon women's final with a smart, clever and at times impudent victory over Tatjana Maria to become the first Arab and North African woman to progress this far in a grand slam.

Maria played her part but there is a reason why Jabeur has won more matches than anyone else on the women’s tour this last calendar year: she really knows how to control a tennis ball. Against another player who prefers to take the pace off the ball, it was a fascinating duel of two counter-punchers. Watching on from the Royal Box, Keir Starmer rather enjoyed seeing what proper opposition looked like.

These two are close friends off court, with Jabeur often to be found playing with Maria’s two daughters. And on it there seemed to be a familiarity in each other’s game, an ability to read where the drops were going to land. It was just that when it started, Jabeur - who is married to a former international fencer - seemed quicker to read where her opponent’s strikes were likely to land.

All drops and slices, improvisation and imagination, plus a ferocious forehand, which she applied when Maria went to the net and dominated the early exchanges. She took the lead in the first game, breaking service after five deuces. Then broke again to win the first set with two breaks and a sequence of superbly-disguised winners. But Maria was not one to concede. Anxious to demonstrate that giving birth as recently as last April was no bar to athleticism, she tore round the court, consistently serving 10mph faster than her opponent to take the second set.

It was then, just as balance appeared to have been re-established, that Jabeur really eased away, winning the third set 6-1. The pair’s embrace at the net was prolonged and heartfelt, Jabeur leading her vanquished opponent back on to court for further applause and appreciation.

"I wanted to share the moment with her at the end because she is such an inspiration not only for me but for so many players coming back after having two babies," Jabeur said afterwards.

But in sport, there can only be one victor. And Jabeur looks a winner indeed.

Ons Jabeur vs Tatjana Maria: as it happened

03:24 PM

The winning moment for Jabeur

03:22 PM

Jabeur 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 Maria* (*denotes next server)

Warm applause as Jabeur eases to 40-0 and three match points.

Jabeur has a chance to win it with a cross court forehand winner but misses wide, 40-15. GAME SET MATCH JABEUR.

Maria nets a forehand and it's all over. The two players share a long embrace at the net and Jabeur encourages the crowd to show their  appreciation for Maria

03:18 PM

Jabeur* 6-2, 3-6, 4-0 Maria (*denotes next server)

Maria just about keeps her dreams alive with a service hold to 15. Jabeur will serve for a place in the final next.

Wimbledon - AFP
Wimbledon - AFP

03:13 PM

Jabeur 6-2, 3-6, 5-0 Maria* (*denotes next server)

The confidence is draining from Maria, who looks to be struggling physically.

Jabeur moves to 40-0 then hits a double fault. But she moves one game from the final when Maria puts a forehand long.

03:12 PM

Jabeur* 6-2, 3-6, 4-0 Maria (*denotes next server)

More problems for Maria on her serve as she nets a volley, 15-30. Break point Jabeur after a forehand winner, 30-40. Maria desperately hangs in the rally and puts up a very good lob that Jabeur slices wide on the overhead.

Deep Jabeur sliced backhand and Maria whips a forehand down the line long, break point.

Jabeur breaks. Maria goes on the attack and gets a high ball to put away but she gets it all wrong and smashes the ball way out.

03:05 PM

Jabeur 6-2, 3-6, 3-0 Maria* (*denotes next server)

Jabeur is flying now and she holds to 15.

One notable spectator on Centre Court - England and Aston Villa defender Tyrone Mings.

03:01 PM

Jabeur* 6-2, 3-6, 2-0 Maria (*denotes next server)

Maria tamely hits a forehand into the net to give Jabeur a break point. And the No 2 takes her chance with a cross court forehand winner.

Maria is furious with herself.

02:59 PM

Third Set: Jabeur 6-2, 3-6, 1-0 Maria* (*denotes next server)

Jabeur leaps into the air and hits a cross-court backhand winner to hold. Gorgeous shot.

02:54 PM

Jabeur* 6-2, 3-6 Maria (*denotes next server)

Despite Jabeur's quality, Maria has stayed calm and consistent in this set and earned herself three set points.

Jabeur saves the first with a forehand winner. But not the second as Jabeur tamely nets a backhand drop shot.

Into a decider we go!

02:51 PM

Jabeur 6-2, 3-5 Maria* (*denotes next server)

Jabeur double fault followed by a Maria drop shot makes it 30-30. Low sliced forehand from Maria and Jabeur nets her forehand, 30-40. Break point. Saved by Jabeur with a forehand volley winner.

Jabeur has definitely earnt herself some new fans on Centre Court with more delightful hand skills in the foreground as she flicks a backhand away for a winner.

02:46 PM

Meanwhile, look who is practising...

02:45 PM

Jabeur* 6-2, 2-5 Maria (*denotes next server)

Maria is into a rhythm on serve now and gaining in confidence after that first set whereas Jabeur's level has dropped a little bit.

Maria is a game away from forcing a final set.

02:41 PM

Jabeur 6-2, 2-4 Maria* (*denotes next server)

A better service game by Jabeur as she races to 40-0. She then puts a forehand long.

NO LOOK DROP SHOT BY JABEUR TO HOLD. She's a joy to watch.

02:38 PM

Jabeur* 6-2, 1-4 Maria (*denotes next server)

The contrasting style on show compared to the usual slugfests we see is great to watch.

And the crowd loves it as Jabeur makes it deuce with a brilliant sliced forehand winner that evades Maria's racket. Amazing racket head control.

Nevertheless, Maria survives Jabeur's brilliance to consolidate the break.

Wimbledon - AP
Wimbledon - AP

02:32 PM

Jabeur 6-2, 1-3 Maria* (*denotes next server)

Badly hit drop shot by Jabeur, 15-30. She responds with a first serve that unreturned. Jabeur forehand misses the sideline and drops into the tramlines, break point.

And Maria does break when Jabeur slices a forehand into the net. Game on?

02:29 PM

Jabeur* 6-2, 1-2 Maria (*denotes next server)

A double fault by Maria gives Jabeur two break points, 15-40. Maria saves the first with a volley winner.

And the second when Jabeur narrowly misses with a forehand up the line, deuce.

Another really fun rally between the two players sees Jabeur go on the attack but Maria keeps herself in the point and Jabeur eventually puts a forehand long.

Maria hangs onto her serve when Jabeur puts a backhand wide.

02:23 PM

Jabeur 6-2, 1-1 Maria* (*denotes next server)

Frustration for Maria as she nets a forehand that would have given her a break point.

Lovely angled backhand by Jabeur pushes Maria wide and that leaves a simple volley winner for Jabeur.

02:20 PM

Second Set: Jabeur* 6-2, 0-1 Maria (*denotes next server)

Better service game from Maria as she holds to 15 when Jabeur nets a backhand.

02:15 PM

Jabeur 6-2 Maria* (*denotes next server)

Ace by Jabeur, 30-0. Maria slices a backhand long, 40-0. And she takes the set when maria makes another error.

02:14 PM

Jabeur* 5-2 Maria (*denotes next server)

Scorching forehand winner down the line by Maria.

What a point - Maria hits a cross court forehand pass, Jabeur closes the net and hits an outrageous flicked backhand volley off her feet that just creeps over and does a 360 spin. Maria miraculously gets to the ball and angles a backhand just over the net and Jabeur should have an easy putaway but she nets, 15-15

Maria forehand wide, break point. Double break for Jabeur secured when she hits a pass down the line and Maria can't control her volley.

02:09 PM

Jabeur 4-2 Maria* (*denotes next server)

A forehand from Jabeur flies long, 30-30. Jabeur gets a short ball from Maria and finishes the point well with a forehand winner, 40-30.

And then a backhand winner to seal the game.

02:06 PM

I wonder why he's smiling?!

Wimbledon - AFP
Wimbledon - AFP

02:03 PM

Jabeur* 3-2 Maria (*denotes next server)

Another great duel in the forecourt between two players and Jabeur wins it with an overhead winner, 15-30.

Maria responds with a short sliced backhand and Jabeur nets, 40-30. Maria slices a backhand long, deuce.

Another tough service game for Maria but she holds when Jabeur's return flies long.

01:58 PM

Jabeur 3-1 Maria* (*denotes next server)

Back-to-back unforced errors by Jabeur, 0-30. Maria pushes Jabeur deep with a forehand but the Tunisian replies with another delicately hit drop shot.

Another cat and mouse point which Jabeur comes out on top in, 40-30. We go to deuce when Jabeur's backhand goes wide.

The two players go toe-to-toe with sliced backhands before Jabeur switches it up with a backhand down the line that Maria can't get back in play.

01:52 PM

Jabeur* 2-1 Maria (*denotes next server)

Delicate forehand drop shot by Jabeur and Maria nets, 30-30. Point of the match sees Jabeur take charge after a defensive lob and she earns a break point with a forehand winner.

Maria saves another break point when Jabeur nets a backhand. Second break point for Jabeur after a double fault by Maria.

And Jabeur does get the break when Maria tamely nets a forehand.

01:49 PM

Jabeur 1-1 Maria* (*denotes next server)

After a lengthy hold for Maria in the opening game, Jabeur seemingly has no such trouble when she moves to 40-0.

But a forehand error slightly opens the door for a Maria comeback, 40-30. But Jabeur does hold when Maria nets a backhand.

01:45 PM

First Set: Ons Jabeur* 0-1 Tatjana Maria (*denotes next server)

First sign of Jabeur's flair as she hits a drop shot return winner of Maria's second serve, 15-15.

Maria hits a sliced approach shot into the net, break point. Drop volley by Maria that Jabeur reaches but she can't get the call over the net.

Break point for Jabeur again when she steps inside the baseline and whips a lovely inside out forehand. Maria responds with a volley winner after an aggressive rally.

Another break point for Jabeur when Maria's sliced backhand goes long. Maria finds her first serve and Jabeur nets.

After eight minutes Maria finally holds in the opening game when Jabeur puts a forehand long.

01:30 PM

Here we go...

... first sighting of the players as they walk through the corridors of Centre Court, down the stairs and finally onto the court where they both receive a warm reception.

01:20 PM

Meanwhile...

... there remains doubt about Rafael Nadal's participation in the tournament.

Nadal was scheduled to practise at 12.30pm but failed to arrive on court. He was later spotted arriving at Wimbledon and going through security.

He's due to have a scan on his abdominal injury and it remains to be seen whether he will be able to play his semi-final against Nick Kyrgios on Friday.

Wimbledon - OFFSIDE
Wimbledon - OFFSIDE

01:13 PM

What happened the last time they met

The last time Ons Jabeur and Tatjana Maria met on Tour was in the second round of qualifying at Beijing in 2018.

At the time, Jabeur, who ran out a 6-4 6-1 winner, was ranked No.116

01:00 PM

Listen to the latest episode of the Tennis Podcast

12:50 PM

Jabeur and Maria: Two great friends

12:37 PM

Good afternoon

Huge day in store at Wimbledon today as we enter women's semi-finals day.

I'll be bringing you coverage of the first scheduled match between Ons Jabeur and Tatjana Maria. Jabeur is the highest seed left in the draw and aiming to reach a grand slam final for the first time.

She said: "Usually I'm impatient and I want the results right away. I didn't imagine taking my time, you know. But it's good that I took my time, because it helped me understand a lot of things.

"I honestly expected myself to do better after juniors, because I was one of the good ones and seeing other players from, like, my age doing better and I wasn't there. I was kind of jealous. But I also tried to be patient.

"You know, everything happens for a reason, and I believe I deserve to be here right now this year, you know."

For Maria, she has made history as the first mother of two to reach the singles semi-finals of a major.

She said: "I think for me that's the most important in my life, to be a mom of my two kids. Nothing will change this. I'm here, yeah, I'm in the semifinal of Wimbledon, it's crazy, but I'm still a mom. After this I will go out over there and I will see my kids and I will do the same thing what I do every single day.

"I will change her Pampers, I mean, everything normal. I try to keep normal as much as possible, because that was what makes me proudest is to be a mom. I guess there are a lot of people who never believed I would come back. This was already after Charlotte and when I changed my backhand. I think there were also a lot of people already in this time that nobody was thinking, Okay, she's now back with a child, but it's not impossible to be back in the top 100.

"And, yeah, to be honest, I showed it last time already that I am back. I mean, I reached the top 50 with Charlotte, and now I'm back with my second child. Still everybody was doubting.

"I mean, you know, I mean, it's a little bit my life to show everybody that I'm still here and I'm a fighter, and I keep going and I keep dreaming. That's what I want to show my kids."