|Event: All England Club Dates: June 27-July 10|
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History makers Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina will meet in the Wimbledon final after the pair posted impressive victories in the quarterfinals.
Tunisian third-seeded Jabeur became the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam singles final with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 win over Tatjana Maria.
Rybakina then became the first singles player from Kazakhstan to reach a major final with a 6-3, 6-3 dismantling of former champion Simona Halep.
The two will meet on Saturday.
Jabeur has become one of the favorites at Wimbledon, and she and her good friend Maria thrilled the crowd, before sharing a long, loving hug at the net as Jabeur secured victory.
Maria gave birth to her second child, Cecilia, last year, and has defied the odds in a remarkable run to the Wimbledon semi-finals.
Jabeur, ranked second in the world, is the first African woman to reach a major final since South Africa’s Sandra Reynolds at Wimbledon in 1960.
“It’s a dream come true after years and years of work and sacrifice,” said Jabeur.
“I am very happy that it is paying off and now there is one more game to come.”
She and World No.23 Rybakina, who is the fourth-lowest-ranked player to reach the Wimbledon final since 1984, will meet on Center Court in a matchup of two Grand Slam finalists for the first time.
While Rybakina’s progression has gone unnoticed, she outclassed former world number one Halep with relative ease.
“I think it’s going to be a great game. [against Ons Jabeur]; she’s a great player, a very complicated player, it’s not going to be easy to play against her dropshots and volleys,” Rybakina said.
“I think it’s going to be a great match, I think I’ve already done the work, so it’s time to enjoy it on the court.”
Born in Russia, she has represented Kazakhstan since 2018 after being offered more financial support and will now try to become the first player from the country to win a major singles trophy.
The Russian players were Banned by Wimbledon from competing this year after the invasion of the country of Ukraine.
When asked about her Russian background, the Moscow-born player said: “I have been playing for Kazakhstan for a long time. I am very happy to represent Kazakhstan. They believed in me.”
“There’s no doubt about how I feel anymore.”
‘Minister of Happiness’ Jabeur beats ‘BBQ buddy’
Jabeur’s story is that of an inspiring late mature who lacked patience in her youth before finding the right mindset to complement her talents.
That has allowed her to win WTA tournaments, climb the rankings and regularly break barriers.
Known as the ‘Minister of Happiness’ in her country, Jabeur is a popular figure in Tunisia, the Arab world and Africa as she continues to be a pioneer.
“I am a proud Tunisian woman here today and I know that in Tunisia they are going crazy right now,” she said.
“I try to inspire as much as I can and I want to see more Arab and African players on tour.”
Based on their rankings, Jabeur was the heavy favorite against Maria, and that was finally confirmed in a convincing match.
Both players have a similar style, keen to use their court and play with variety, and it made for an entertaining match.
After a nervous start from both players, Jabeur’s extra quality shone through in the first set.
Immediately, Maria’s serve came under pressure in an eight-minute opening game, with the German finally holding after wiping out two break points.
However, she couldn’t take any more pressure in her next service game and Jabeur took a lead she wouldn’t relinquish in the first set.
The third seed appeared to be sailing towards a routine victory as she earned two more break points in the second game of the second set.
But Maria put them away and caused a change in momentum.
Perhaps it shouldn’t have been surprising, considering that Maria had come back from a set down in three of her previous five matches, including her quarter-final victory over fellow German Jule Niemeier.
Maria broke convincingly in the fourth game and, after failing to break again for the set in the eighth, served to the delight of the 15,000 fans who were desperate for the action to go on.
Ominously for Maria, Jabeur’s level returned at the start of the decider.
Jabeur broke for a 2-0 lead with a forehand winner, and went from there to a victory that he said would leave his fellow Tunisians “celebrating like crazy” at home.
“On the court we knew we would go out there and do our best, and then we knew we were still going to be friends,” Maria said.
“She is an amazing person. I am very happy for her and I hope she can win it.”
Rybakina stuns Halep
At 23, Rybakina is the youngest Wimbledon finalist since Garbine Muguruza, then 21, accomplished the feat in 2015 and played with an ease that seemed beyond Halep.
As the only player left with any Grand Slam final experience, Halep was the overwhelming favorite in a place where she won 12 consecutive matches.
However, she was dominated early on by Rybakina, who used her big serve and equally gigantic groundstrokes to fool Halep.
The Romanian faced at least one break point in each of her first five service games, disappointed by a 53% first serve rate and nine double faults.
Rybakina showed no signs of nervousness, bringing three set points in the first with a 118mph ace, before converting on a long Halep forehand.
Her momentum continued in the second set, with Halep saving a break point in her first service game before unleashing back-to-back double faults to leave her in deep trouble.
Halep managed to recover the break and she did it for love, chaining three points for the first time in the match, but another double fault in the next game returned the lead to Rybakina.
From then on, Halep’s shoulders dropped and Rybakina needed no further encouragement, rushing back through her service games to put Halep under pressure.
The frustration was evident when Halep, serving to stay in the match at 5-3, went from 40-15 to two on another double fault. He stood for a long time, leaning on his racket, her hand on his thigh as the crowd tried to cheer her on.
However, a wonderful Rybakina service return caught the line to stun both Halep and the crowd.
“I deserved to win today because of the way I played,” Halep said. “Somehow I think I gave him the perfect ball to make his game.”