WILL EVANS’ daily preview serves up Wimbledon tips as Ons Jabeur faces fellow first-time semi-finalist Tatjana Maria for a spot in the decider.
19:00 (AEST), Thu 7th Jul @ All England Club, Wimbledon
History: Played 3: Jabeur 2 V Maria 1
History: Beijing Open, 2021 (F): Jabeur d Maria 6-4 6-1
Final Thoughts: Arguably the best player yet to feature in a grand slam final squares off against one of the most remarkable Cinderella stories of the Open era in a fascinating Wimbledon semi.
Third seed Ons Jabeur is into her first slam semi after quarter-final appearances at the 2020 Australian Open and Wimbledon last year. She signalled her grass-court intentions last month by taking out the German Open and has maintained that momentum at the All England Club.
The 27-year-old ripped through the first three rounds for the last of just 13 games total against Mirjam Bjorklund, Katarzyna Kawa and Diane Parry, before holding off 24th seed Elise Mertens 7-6 6-4.
Jabeur finally dropped a set in the quarter-finals, but recovered from that early setback to defeat bolter Marie Bouzkova 3-6 6-1 6-1 in authoritative fashion.
Meanwhile, no one could have seen Tatjana Maria’s semi-final charge coming. The 34-year-old’s highest ranking is a modest 46th (back in 2016) and her best grand slam performance was a third-round showing at Wimbledon 2015. She’s only 15 months removed from the birth of her second child and is ranked 103rd in the world.
But she has carved an extraordinary path through the women’s draw. Maria came from a set down to beat Aussie Astra Sharma first up then outlasted 26th seed Sorana Cirstea in three sets. The veteran shocked fifth seed Maria Sakkari 6-3 7-5 then rolled 12th seed and grand slam winner Ostapenko 5-7 7-5 7-5.
Maria came from a set down for the third time in the quarters, overcoming fellow German Julie Niemeier 4-6 6-2 7-5 in another dazzling performance.
Jabeur leads the head-to-head count 2-1, winning a 2014 US Open qualifier and the 2018 Beijing Open final either side of Maria’s victory at the 2017 Linz Open.
The fairytale narrative around Maria is hard to resist – and the big scalps she’s picked up so far, along with the power and variety of her tennis in this tournament, suggest the $6 outsider is a real chance.
But Jabeur is a cut above Maria’s previous opponents at present. She’s made four WTA finals in the past three months and deserves a place on tennis’ biggest stage – and she will almost certainly get it. That said, Maria will go down fighting and looks the better option in handicap betting with such a massive start.