Spain and Germany start Euro 2022 in style

LONDON: Ons Jabeur says the seeds of her historic Wimbledon final charge were sown 12 months ago when she told her coaching staff: “I’m coming back for the title.”

Jabeur became the first African Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam final in the modern era when she beat close friend Tatjana Maria 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in the semi-final.

She will face Russian-born Elena Rybakina, who now represents Kazakhstan, for the title on Saturday.

Twelve months ago, 27-year-old Jabeur reached the quarter-finals for the first time, losing to Aryna Sabalenka.

But along the way, she knocked out five-time champion Venus Williams, 2017 winner Garbine Muguruza, as well as current No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Having never made it past the second round at the All England Club, this run gave him a taste for more.

“I’m not going to lie to you, the dream started last year when I enjoyed playing here, enjoyed the crowd,” said the world number 2.

“I haven’t played that much Wimbledon before. Usually it was round one and round two. It’s tough on grass but I knew I was playing well on grass because of my game and everything.

“Mélanie (Maillard), my mental coach, reminded me that when I lost in the quarter-finals, I told him ‘I’m coming back next year for the title’.”

Maillard needed no convincing.

“She was like, ‘You will.’ She knows if I put something in my head, I do it. .”

Jabeur made it through the first four rounds at Wimbledon this year before needing three sets to defeat Marie Bouzkova and then three more to defeat Maria.

His run to the final came after a disheartening first-round exit at Roland Garros in May.

Jabeur had been one of the favorites for the title in Paris after winning the clay title from Madrid followed by a second-place finish at Swiatek in Rome.

But a quick reset after her disappointment in the French capital got her back on track.

“I have a great team behind me. Even though sometimes – I’m not going to lie to you – maybe I thought I was never going to make it or I was never going to make a Grand Slam title or a Grand Slam final, Jabeur said. .

“I had to remember why I started playing tennis, what kind of joy this tennis brings me. As soon as I remember that, I am pumped, motivated to go for it.

Russian and Belarusian players are banned from this year’s tournament following the invasion of Ukraine.

But there will be a Russian presence in the final after Rybakina, playing in her first Slam final, switched allegiance to Kazakhstan in 2018.

“I’m really happy to represent Kazakhstan. They believed in me. There’s no question about how I feel anymore,” the 23-year-old said.

“My journey as a Kazakh player is already long. I played in the Olympics, in the Fed Cup.

Rybakina had never made it past the quarter-finals of a Slam before Wimbledon this year.

But the grass courts at Wimbledon are the perfect platform for his game.

She’s shot 49 aces so far and boasts the second-fastest serve in the women’s tournament at 122 miles (196 kilometers) per hour.

Saturday’s match features a radically different clash of tennis styles – Jabeur’s slice and change of pace against Rybakina’s raw power.

There could also be a strong contrast in the celebration.

“She’s not someone who yells a lot at every point. I respect that about her,” Jabeur said.

“I know he’s a very shy person, even outside of court. Maybe I’ll be the one screaming on Saturday.

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