Jabeur fends off Gauff to set up Berlin title clash with Olympic champion Bencic

Ons Jabeur kept Coco Gauff waiting for her top-10 debut as the Tunisian battled her teenage opponent to reach the Berlin Open final.

Gauff would have had a career-highest WTA list ranking had she won Saturday’s semi-final, but top seed Jabeur prevailed 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 to earn Belinda a chance Bencic in the title match. .

Only world number one Iga Swiatek has won more matches on the WTA Tour than fourth-placed Jabeur this year, who picked up a 29th win as she overcame a 3-1 career deficit to Gauff to claim victory.

Gauff, at 18 years and 98 days, would have become the youngest American to reach a grass singles final on tour since Andrea Jaeger was runner-up to Martina Navratilova at Wimbledon in 1983.

It was not to be his day though, with Jabeur breaking serve for the fourth time in the game to seal the win, cheered on by a large Tunisian home crowd.

Reflecting on the match, Jabeur said: “When you play against Coco, you have to have all the shots. She’s a talented player, she’s very hard to beat. You can see that I’ve already lost three times against her.

“Sometimes she takes it, sometimes I take it, and it was a great game for both of us.”

This is only the second WTA tournament where Jabeur, 27, is one of the top seeds.

“I’ve tried to act like a number one seed on and off the court, and that’s good pressure,” she added. “I try to handle it very well and with the support of our Tunisian people here, it’s great.”

Olympic gold medalist Bencic previously secured an impressive 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 6-4 victory over second seeded Greece Maria Sakkari in the first semi-final.

Jabeur was beaten by Bencic in a hard-fought final in Charleston in April but is determined to get a different result this time around.

“I will definitely go for the final rematch because we faced each other in Charleston, and it was a very, very tough game,” Jabeur said. “I hope she’s tired from today’s game.”

Rain meant there was no play at the Birmingham Classic on Saturday, with the semi-finals rescheduled for Sunday.

Beatriz Haddad Maia will face 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, while Zhang Shuai will face Sorana Cirstea.

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