Tennis-Jabeur rallies past Bouzkova to reach maiden major semi-final


Tennis - Wimbledon - All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, Britain - July 5, 2022 Tunisia's Ons Jabeur in action during her quarter final match against Czech Republic's Marie Bouzkova REUTERS/Toby Melville

LONDON (Reuters) -Tunisian third seed Ons Jabeur, the highest surviving seed in the women's draw, recovered from losing her first set at this year's Wimbledon to beat Czech Marie Bouzkova 3-6 6-1 6-1 on Tuesday and reach her maiden Grand Slam semi-final.

Since going down in the opening round at this year's Roland Garros in a shock defeat, Jabeur has won 10 straight matches on grass, having arrived at the All England Club with a title in Berlin in the lead-up.

Currently playing at her highest career ranking of second, Jabeur will next meet her friend -- 103rd-ranked Tatjana Maria, who earlier beat fellow German Jule Niemeier, for a place in Saturday's final.

Jabeur said it will be tough to play against her "barbecue buddy" Maria, who returned from maternity leave only last summer after giving birth to her second daughter and reached her first major semi-final at the 47th attempt.

"I love Tatjana so much and her family is really amazing," Jabeur said. "She's a great friend. I am really happy for her that she's in the semi-final.

"She's one of the examples that I wish players look up to because she really suffered to play and to win rounds in Grand Slams and look at her now. She's in a semi-final after having two babies. It's a really amazing story."

The story of Jabeur, 27, has been no less amazing as she became the first Arab to reach a Grand Slam singles semi-final and is bidding to become the first woman from Africa to win a major.

Coming into her second straight Wimbledon quarter-final, Jabeur had yet to lose a set in her four rounds, not allowing opponents to settle with her gamut of forceful serves, powerful forehands, deft slices and well-disguised drop shots.

She used plenty of drop shots in the opening stages of the first set against Bouzkova but the 23-year-old Czech read them well to blunt one of the Tunisian's main weapons.

STOIC DEFENCE

Jabeur failed to find a way past the Czech's stoic defence as Bouzkova chased down most of her groundstrokes and was rewarded with a break of serve in the fifth game. A second break in the ninth got her the opening set.

As the first set Jabeur had lost in this year's tournament it seemed to wake up the Tunisian.

The 27-year-old stepped up her aggression, started hitting her groundstrokes flatter and broke Bouzkova's first service game of the second set.

A second and a third break followed and the Tunisian soon levelled the match as her favourite drop shots once again found the mark on the lush green lawns.

The Czech, who came into the Centre Court contest with six career wins over top-10 players, headed off for a lengthy bathroom break but could not change the momentum.

Bouzkova, who had never got past the second round of a Grand Slam before this year's championships, was 40-0 up in the second game when Jabeur won five straight points to break serve and then consolidated her advantage with a hold to love.

Jabeur had won eight straight games to jump into a 4-0 lead before the Czech halted the juggernaut with a break to get on board in the third set.

However, it proved to be only a minor hiccup for Jabeur who picked up another break in the next game and then held serve to love to seal the contest on her first match point.

"I knew she was going to come and really make me work to win a point," Jabeur said. "She's a talented player, and I'm really happy that I woke up during the second set and I played much better in the third set."

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Ken Ferris)

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