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Trailblazer Jabeur ready to make second chance count

China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-10 11:33
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Tunisian says she is better prepared for US final after historic run at Wimbledon

Ons Jabeur of Tunisia celebrates after defeating Caroline Garcia of France on Thursday to reach the US Open women's singles final. [Photo/Agencies]

Getting to a Grand Slam final is no longer new to Ons Jabeur. She figures it's time to add a major trophy to her list of groundbreaking accomplishments.

And she's sure she is more ready to do it at the US Open than she was at Wimbledon two months ago.

Jabeur reached a second consecutive Slam title match without needing to produce her best tennis Thursday night, taking full advantage of a shaky showing by Caroline Garcia to win their semifinal at Flushing Meadows 6-1, 6-3.

The No 5-seeded Jabeur, a 28-year-old from Tunisia, was the runner-up at the All England Club in July and now will be the first African woman to participate in a final at the US Open in the professional era, which dates to 1968.

"Feels more real, to be honest with you, just to be in the final again. At Wimbledon, I was kind of just living the dream, and I couldn't believe it," Jabeur said after ending No 17 Garcia's 13-match winning streak, which included a victory over 18-year-old American Coco Gauff in the quarterfinals. "Now just, I hope, I'm getting used to it. ... Now maybe I know what to do."

"After Wimbledon, (there was) a lot of pressure on me," Jabeur said following a win that took barely more than an hour, "and I'm really relieved that I can back up my results."

On Saturday, Jabeur will meet No 1 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland, who later on Thursday defeated No 6 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus.

None of the last four players in the women's bracket had ever made it to the final in New York.

Caroline Garcia vents her frustration during her semifinal loss. [Photo/Agencies]

The same goes for the men's semifinalists: No 3 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain vs No 22 Frances Tiafoe of the United States, and No 5 Casper Ruud of Norway vs No 27 Karen Khachanov of Russia.

With four-time major champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in her guest box-they traded thumbs-up signals at the end of the match-Jabeur improved to 6-0 in semifinals this season and earned her tour-leading 92nd victory since the start of 2021. No 91 came when she defeated Ajla Tomljanovic, who eliminated Serena Williams.

To Jabeur's surprise, and delight, she heard her quarterfinal victory over Tomljanovic on Tuesday was drawing viewers back home, even though it was on TV the same night as a Champions League game between Juventus and Paris SaintGermain.

"In Tunisia, it's all about soccer," she said. "But people were not watching the game, they were watching my game, which is impressive to me."

That's part of the way in which she is changing views about tennis in her country-and on a continent.

Since pro players were first admitted to major tennis tournaments, never had an African woman or Arab woman been to a Slam final until she did that two months ago at Wimbledon, where she ended up losing to Elena Rybakina.

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.

"Definitely saying out loud what I want to do is part of me achieving things," said Jabeur, who dropped to her knees and let out a yell when the semifinal against Garcia ended, then followed that up by laying on her back in the middle of the court.

"I'm sure it's a lot of pressure on her shoulders," said Garcia, a 28-year-old from France. "But she looks like to be managing it really well."

On this 24-Celsius evening under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium, Jabeur paid attention to her coach's instruction to focus on going after Garcia's backhand and finished with 21 winners-after one that was aided by a fortuitous bounce off the top of the net, Jabeur put up a hand to apologize, then blew a kiss to the sky-and just 15 unforced errors. She delivered eight aces, and went 4 for 4 on break chances and didn't face any.

Agencies Via Xinhua

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