August 16, 2022

Venue: All England Club Appointment: June 27-July 10
Cover: Live on BBC TV, radio and online with extensive coverage on BBC iPlayer, Red Button, Smart TVs and the mobile app.

History makers Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina will meet in the Wimbledon final after the duo secured impressive victories in the last four.

Tunisian third seed 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 became a favorite at Wimbledon, and she and her good friend Maria delighted the crowd, before sharing a long, loving hug at the net as Jabeur took the win.

Maria only gave birth to her second child Cecilia last year and defied the odds in a remarkable run to the Wimbledon semi-finals.

Ranked second in the world, Jabeur 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 hard work and sacrifice,” Jabeur said.

“I’m really happy it paid off and now there’s one more game to come.”

She and world number 23 Rybakina, who is the fourth lowest-ranked player to reach the Wimbledon final since 1984, will meet on center court in a duel between two Grand Slam finalists for the first time.

While Rybakina’s progress went unnoticed, she passed former world number one Halep with relative ease.

The Moscow-born, she has represented Kazakhstan since 2018 and will now be looking to become the country’s first player to win a major singles trophy.

“I think it’s going to be a great game [against Ons Jabeur]; she’s a great player, a very delicate player – it won’t be easy to play against her drop shots and volleys,” said Rybakina.

“I think it’s going to be a great game – I think I’ve already done the job, so it’s time to take advantage of it on the court.”

The “Minister of Happiness” Jabeur beats “the barbecue friend”

Jabeur’s story is one of an inspiring late bloomer who ran out of patience in her youth before finding the right mentality to complement her talent.

This has allowed him to win WTA tournaments, climb the rankings and regularly break down 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 the circuit.”

Based on their rankings, Jabeur was the heavy favorite against Maria – and that was finally confirmed in a compelling contest.

Both players have a similar style, keen to use their slice and play with variety, and it made for an entertaining match.

After an angry start from both players, Jabeur’s extra quality showed in the first set.

Immediately, Maria’s serve came under pressure in an eight-minute opener, the German eventually holding after hitting two break points.

However, she couldn’t resist more pressure in her next service game and Jabeur took a lead she wouldn’t give up in the first set.

The third seed appeared to be heading for a routine victory when she earned two more break points in the second game of the second set.

But Maria saved them and that triggered a change of momentum.

Perhaps that shouldn’t have come as a surprise, given that Maria had come back after a set in three of her previous five matches – including her quarter-final win over fellow German Jule Niemeier.

Maria broke decisively in the fourth game and, after failing again for the set in the eighth, served it to the delight of the 15,000 fans who desperately wanted the action to continue.

Worryingly for Maria, Jabeur’s level returned to the start of the decider.

Jabeur took a 2-0 lead with a forehand winner, and from there she clinched a win that she said would leave her fellow Tunisians “celebrate like mad” at home.

“On the pitch, we both knew we were going to go out and do our best, and afterwards we knew we were always going to be friends,” Maria said.

“She’s an amazing person. I’m really happy for her and hope she can win.”

Rybakina stuns Halep

At 23, Rybakina is the youngest Wimbledon finalist since Garbine Muguruza, then 21, achieved the feat in 2015 and she played with an ease that seemed beyond Halep.

As the only player with Grand Slam finals experience, Halep was the overwhelming favorite at a venue where she has won 12 consecutive matches.

However, she was overpowered from the start by Rybakina, who used her big serve and equally giant groundstrokes to counter Halep.

The Romanian faced at least one break point in each of her first five service games, disappointed with a 53% first-serve rate and nine double faults.

Rybakina showed no signs of nervousness, bringing up three set points in the first with a 118mph ace, before converting on a long forehand from Halep.

Her momentum continued in the second set, Halep saving a break point on her first service game before spitting back-to-back double faults to leave her in serious trouble.

Halep managed to salvage the break and did it for love, racking up a three-pointer for the first time in the game, but another double fault in the following game put Rybakina back in the lead.

From then on, Halep’s shoulders dropped and Rybakina needed no further encouragement, again rushing into her service games to put Halep under pressure.

The frustration was evident when Halep, serving to stay in the game at 5-3, went from 40-15 to two on yet another double fault. She stood for a long time, leaning on her racquet, her hand on her thigh as the crowd tried to push her.

However, a magnificent return of serve from Rybakina caught the line to stun Halep and the crowd.

“She deserved to win today with the way I played,” Halep said. “Somehow I think I gave him the perfect ball to make his game.”

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