Jaber from Tunisia has already made history at this year’s Wimbledon as the first Arab or North African to reach a Grand Slam semi-final, and she took another step forward with a hard-fought victory over Maria.
The third seed, who had only lost two sets in the tournament, went through the first set easily after making a double serve break, but Maria put her punch to good use and responded with a break to take the second set.
With the level of the match, Jabeur got the upper hand with a break early in the third set, followed by another at 3-0 when Maria sent a simple long right hand.
From that point on, the match was almost out and Jabeur took the win, scoring the second of three match points after Maria returned to the draw.
“I am proud of the Tunisian woman who is standing here today,” said Zhaber, who will face Elena Rybakina in the final on Saturday, in an on-court interview, “and I know they are going crazy in Tunisia right now.
“I just try to inspire as much as I can. I want to see more and more not only Tunisian but also Arab and African players on the tour. I just love the game and I want to share this experience with them.”
Zhaber and Maria are close friends, and at the end of the match they hugged for a long time at the net. As the crowd cheered for the two players, Jabeur pulled Maria back onto the court and gestured for the crowd to cheer on her opponent.
The German held the best Grand Slam of her career at Wimbledon just 15 months after giving birth to her second child.
She is only the sixth woman aged 34 or older to play in a Grand Slam semi-final, following in the footsteps of Venus and Serena Williams, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Billie Jean King.
“She should cook me a barbecue now to make up for all my running around,” Jabeur joked after the match.
“I definitely wanted to share a moment with her at the end because she is an inspiration to so many players, myself included. Coming back after having two kids, I can’t believe how she did it.”
Jabeur had never made it out of a Grand Slam quarter-final before this year’s tournament, but she has been in good shape this season, climbing to an all-time high of No. 1. No. 2 in the world rankings.
Rybakina was stunned by Halep
In the other semi-final on Thursday, Rybakina put on a brilliant performance, surprising two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep in straight sets, 6-3 6-3.
It will be the first major final for the 23-year-old Rybakina as she becomes the youngest Wimbledon women’s singles finalist since Garbiñe Muguruza in 2015.
“I don’t know how to describe it, it was really good, today I was mentally prepared and did everything I could, and it was an amazing match,” said Rybakina, the first representative of Kazakhstan to reach the Wimbledon final. post-match interview.
Meanwhile, Halep will be disappointed that she has not been able to capitalize on her strong form by not dropping a single set in the tournament ahead of Thursday’s match.