Sports, Tennis

Comeback queen Jabeur reaches second successive final

Published : 14 Jul 2023 08:08 PM

Ons Jabeur fought back from a set and 4-2 down to defeat Aryna Sabalenka and reach a second successive Wimbledon final on Thursday, saving the All England Club from a potentially embarrassing diplomatic headache.

The Tunisian world number six came through 6-7 (5/7), 6-4, 6-3 and will face Marketa Vondrousova for the title on Saturday.

It was the third time at the tournament this year that the 28-year-old Jabeur had fought back from dropping the first set.

Saturday's final will be her third at the Slams after losing to Elena Rybakina at Wimbledon and then to Iga Swiatek at the US Open last year.

"I'm very proud of myself because maybe old me would have lost the match today and went back home already but I'm glad that I kept digging deep and finding the strength," she said.

"I'm learning to transform the bad energy into a good one so the anger that I had from the first set I tried to stay focused.

"Some things I have no control over. She can ace any time, she can hit a big serve even if I have a break point and that's frustrating a bit but I'm glad that I'm accepting it and digging deep to go and win this match and hopefully the tournament."

Tunisia's Ons Jabeur returns the ball to Belarus's Aryna Sabalenka during their women's singles semi-finals tennis match on the eleventh day of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Lawn Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on 13 July, 2023

Had Sabalenka gone on to win the title on Saturday, she would have received the trophy from Princess Catherine, the wife of the heir to the British throne, a year after all Belarusian and Russian players were banned from the tournament following the invasion of Ukraine.

Belarus is a key ally of Moscow.

Sabalenka looked on course to comfortably make the final in the early stages on Thursday.

Sabalenka, playing in her fourth successive Grand Slam semi-final and sixth in total, fought off three break points in the first set.

The 25-year-old then recovered from 2/4 down in the tiebreak to clinch the opener after just under an hour on court.

During the set, she unleashed the fastest women's serve at Wimbledon this year with a 121 mph (194.7 km/h) rocket.

Sabalenka, who had defeated Jabeur on her way to the last four at Wimbledon in 2021, broke for a 3-2 lead in the second set when her Tunisian opponent served up her third double fault.

That lead stretched to 4-2 before sixth-ranked Jabeur hit back from the brink to reel off the next four games to level the contest.

Sabalenka's spirit slipped away and she was broken in the sixth game of the decider before Jabeur claimed victory on a fifth match point with a clean ace.

Sabalenka unleashed 39 winners but committed 45 unforced errors as her hopes of adding the Wimbledon title to her Australian Open victory were dashed.