Ons Jabeur knows how to get the audience on their side. She proved that most recently when she won the tournament in Berlin, where the Tunisian fan community grew louder and louder from match to match and she also made the German visitors in the Steffi Graf Stadium laugh with her humorous manner at the latest at the award ceremony. The fact that the 27-year-old Jabeur also has a big heart, she proved with her words to her Berlin final opponent Belinda Bencic – the Swiss had to give up injured at the time.
Jabeur currently seems to be riding a wave of sympathy. If there were a popularity contest among tennis players, she would have the best chance of winning it. Serena Williams, for example, was keen to make her comeback on the Eastbourne doubles tour with the Tunisian, and Bencic described Jabeur and her team members in Berlin as “good friends”.
On Thursday there will even be a kind of family reunion in Wimbledon in the semi-finals when Jabeur competes against Tatjana Maria. The German had already wished for a duel with Jabeur after her victory against compatriot Jule Niemeier and said: “She is part of my family, she loves my children.” Although Maria is seven years older, Jabeur and she have known each other “for ages”, as she said: Why is the relationship so good? “She speaks French, my husband is French. And we played club matches together.”
It will be their fourth game against each other on the tennis court, the first in a main draw of a Grand Slam tournament and in a semi-final. “It will be a great match between us, with a lot of respect,” said Jabeur. On Wimbledon’s Center Court, however, the friendship between the two will rest during the duel. Because both Jabeur and Maria can create historical things.
The Tunisian has recently managed to relocate an entire continent on the tennis map. Africa has rarely played a role when it comes to the really big titles. Jabeur would be the first African player in a grand final, as well as one from the Arab world, where women don’t always find it easy to fulfill their dreams.
Maria, on the other hand, is only the sixth player to be in a Grand Slam semi-final after her 34th birthday. A win would continue “the fairy tale of Wimbledon” (Daily Mail). The last mother to triumph on the legendary Center Court was Australia’s Evonne Goolagong-Cawley in 1980 – the only one after the First World War.
The favorite for the final is of course Jabeur, who is 100 places ahead of the German in the world rankings. And who traveled to Wimbledon with a clear goal – namely: to win the tournament. “The title in a Grand Slam,” she said in Berlin when asked which victory she was aiming for next. What sounded confident can now become reality and would be the logical consequence of Jabeur’s rapid development in recent months.
She will have to play differently against Maria than she did at Wimbledon. Key word: slice. Maria plays it on the backhand almost exclusively and often also with the forehand. The ball usually flies very slowly and relatively high over the net, but is almost always long enough. So far, no opponent has managed to find a recipe for the entire duration of a match. Jabeur, who has a high level of game intelligence, is absolutely capable of doing so in her current form. Surely it wouldn’t surprise anyone.
And maybe Jabeur will also get applause from Maria’s team: “I’ve already joked with Charlotte: will you support me or your mom?” I’m trying to get the kids on my side,” she said before the duel with her friend. With the eight-year-old, older Maria daughter, Jabeur was actually already on the Wimbledon site. And little Cecilia even considers her “her baby”, as Maria said.