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US OPEN

Ons Jabeur overcomes wobble to set up Caroline Garcia semifinal showdown

Ons Jabeur overcomes wobble to set up Caroline Garcia semifinal showdown
Ons Jabeur reacts to defeating Ajla Tomljanović in their US Open quarterfinal on 6 September 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / CJ Gunther)

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur continues the sublime form that took her to the Wimbledon final at the US Open.

Tunisian fifth seed Ons Jabeur overcame her own frustrations to reach the US Open semifinals by beating Australian Ajla Tomljanović 6-4 7-6(4) on Tuesday. She became the first Arab woman to make the final four at the New York hard-court Grand Slam.

Tomljanović survived tennis’ biggest spotlight when she beat Serena Williams in a packed, third-round prime time affair on Friday, but could not keep up in the quarterfinal after Jabeur sent over three aces and 15 winners in the first set.

The Wimbledon finalist has a well-earned reputation as Tunisia’s “Minister of Happiness” but found her own good cheer tested as the unforced errors piled up in the second set and she threw her racquet several times.

Although she broke Tomljanović in the opening game of the second set, her grip on the match began to waver as her serve deteriorated and the Australian converted three of four break-point opportunities.

Ons Jabeur hits a return to Ajla Tomljanović during their US Open quarterfinal. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Justin Lane)

“I think I’m going to be fired here from my job, Minister of Happiness,” Jabeur joked in an on-court interview. “Tennis is a tough sport and I apologise for my behaviour… but the racquet kept slipping away from my hand.”

Tomljanović handed Jabeur a break with a double fault in the ninth game and whacked the ball into the net on the final point of the tiebreak as the stone-faced Tunisian pumped her fist in a subdued celebration.

 “It was kind of tough to kind of manage the frustration,” Jabeur said. “She keeps fighting and she makes it tough for me.”

The 28-year-old said she was trying to build confidence match-by-match after years of early exits on the Grand Slam stage, with her run to the Wimbledon final proving she belongs in the upper echelons of the sport.

“Knowing that I could make finals in Grand Slams really helped my game, just trying to build that experience to go into second weeks in Grand Slams,” she told reporters.

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She next faces France’s Caroline Garcia, who is playing some of the best tennis of career and last month became the first qualifier to win in Cincinnati. 

Ons Jabeur in action against Ajla Tomljanović at the US Open. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Justin Lane)

“I know she plays really aggressive, and a tough game,” said Jabeur. “So, whoever is going to be able to impose her game is going to be in better form. So I will try to play my game. I will try to be me.”

Garcia ends Gauff’s dream

Garcia crushed American Coco Gauff’s dreams of winning her first US Open, and taking the mantle from retiring Serena Williams, with a comprehensive 6-3 6-4 win to reach her first major semifinal.

The veteran wasted no time putting pressure on the 18-year-old, stepping into the court to attack Gauff’s second serve and clobbering forehands to race out to a 4-0 lead while rain-soaked fans were still finding their seats at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The ruthless Garcia, seeded 17th, captured the first set with an exquisite volley and kept her foot on the gas in the second, breaking Gauff in the first game to keep the New York crowd hushed.

The 12th-seeded Gauff’s best chance to climb back into the match came when she had a break-point opportunity to get back on serve while trailing 3-2 in the second.

But Garcia fired two unreturnable first serves and held after an exhausting rally when Gauff’s passing shot sailed long, leaving the latter looking dejected.

Garcia rolled from there and sealed the win when Gauff’s backhand landed in the net on match point.

Since coming back from a foot injury in May, Garcia has won three events on three different surfaces, on clay in Warsaw, where she beat world No 1 Iga Świątek, on grass in Bad Homburg and on hard court at the Cincinnati Open. Reuters/DM

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