At Wimbledon, Tunisia’s Jabeur first Arab woman in pro Slam final

July 07, 2022

WIMBLEDON Ons Jabeur’s steady progress from year to year — up the tennis rankings, through the draws of various tournaments and, now, at Wimbledon — has carried her to a Grand Slam singles final, the first woman from Africa to make it that far in the professional era.

The No. 3-seeded Jabeur, a 27-year-old from Tunisia, got past her good friend Tatjana Maria 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in an up-and-down semifinal at a sun-splashed Centre Court on Thursday.

Jabeur is on quite a run right now: She has won 11 consecutive matches and 22 of her past 24. Since pro players were first admitted to major tennis tournaments in 1968, never had an African been to a final. She also is the first Arab woman to get that far.

“I’m a proud Tunisian woman standing here today. I know in Tunisia they’re going crazy right now. I just try to inspire, really, as much as I can,” she said. “I want to see more and more — not just Tunisian — Arab, African players on tour. I just love the game and I want to share this experience with them.”

Jabeur will face 2019 champion Simona Halep or No. 17 seed Elena Rybakina for the championship on Saturday. Halep and Rybakina were scheduled to play their semifinal at the All England Club later Thursday.

The men’s semifinals are Friday, with three-time defending champion and No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic facing No. 9 Cameron Norrie of Britain, and 22-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal against unseeded Nick Kyrgios. Nadal shed doubt on whether he’d even be able to show up for his semifinal after struggling through a five-set victory over Taylor Fritz on Wednesday.

Nadal held a limited practice session Thursday, mostly sticking to forehands and backhands. When he did try serving, which was a real problem a day earlier, he did so without using full force or throwing his body behind his deliveries.

Jabeur has been rising in the tennis world in recent seasons. In 2020, at the Australian Open, she became the first Arab woman to reach the quarterfinals at a major. Last year produced all sorts of milestones: first Arab player to break into the top 10 of the men’s or women’s rankings, first Arab to win a WTA title and a quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon. — Agencies

July 07, 2022
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