Rybakina overtakes Halep to set up Wimbledon final against Jabeur

Updated Thu 17:57

ONS JABEUR BECAME the first African woman in the Open era to reach a Grand Slam singles final on Thursday when she beat close friend Tatjana Maria in the Wimbledon semi-final.

The 27-year-old Tunisian world number two triumphed 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 and will face Russia’s Elena Rybakina in Saturday’s league match, after Rybakina defeated former champion Simona Halep 6-3, 6-3 .

“I’m a proud Tunisian woman to be here,” said Jabeur, who was the first Arab player to make a Slam semi-final.

Before Thursday, South Africans Irene Bowder Peacock at the 1927 French Open and Renee Schuurman at the 1959 Australian Open were the only African women to reach a Slam singles final.

“It’s a dream come true after years of hard work and sacrifice. I’m glad it paid off and I’ll keep going for one more game,” Jabeur said.

“Physically Tatjana is a beast, she doesn’t give up, I thought she would give up – her touch, her serve and everything on the court is impressive. I hope she continues like this. Let’s not play anymore, I’m good for now.

“I know in Tunisia they are going crazy right now. I want to see more Arab and African players on the circuit. I love the game and want to share the experience with them.

Jabeur came through the first set against mother-of-two Maria with breaks in games three and seven.

The Tunisian fired 15 winners against her opponent’s six in the first set without facing a single break point.

However, Maria, described by Jabeur as his “barbecue buddy”, finally broke through for 3-1 in the second set after a series of tricky slices.

Jabeur’s 17 unforced errors in the second set compared to the more accurate German’s six, which tied the contest.

But there was not to be an upset victory as the challenge from Maria, 103rd, was called off.

Jabeur earned a double break for a 5-0 advantage before securing his place in history on a second match point.

In the second semi-final of the day, Rybakina, who represents Kazakhstan, beat 2019 champion Halep four times in the match in a dominating display on center court.

“It was really good, today I was mentally prepared and did everything I could and it was an amazing match,” she said.

“I think it’s going to be a great match (against Jabeur). She is a great player, a very delicate player. It won’t be easy to play against his drop shots and volleys.

Former world number one Halep hadn’t dropped a set heading into Thursday’s match but was immediately under pressure against the 17th seed.

Rybakina, who is 1.84 meters (6ft), took a 3-0 lead with an early serve break and earned break points in all of Halep’s service games in the first set.

Romania’s Halep, seeded one spot above her opponent, did well to stay in touch but failed to carve out any break points in the opening set.

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Rybakina, the first woman representing Kazakhstan to reach a Grand Slam semi-final, showed no mercy early in the second set, breaking again to establish an iron fist.

Halep broke love in the fourth game to gain a foothold, but a double fault in the next game returned the initiative to her opponent.

Rybakina, the women’s tournament leading ace, sealed an impressive win on her first match point with a backhand winner down the line to smash Halep again, finishing the match in 76 minutes.

The 23-year-old changed her nationality to Kazakhstan in 2018 in order to benefit from more financial assistance.

Russian and Belarusian players were banned from Wimbledon this year following the invasion of Ukraine.

Updated at 6 p.m. to include Elena Rybakina vs. Simona Halep result.

– ©AFP 2022

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