By Paul Lagan at Wimbledon
Jabeur v Rybakina 6-7, 6-4, 6-1
Ons Jabeur came from a set down to dispose of third seed Elena Rybakina after one hour and 53 minutes in a pulsating, often error-strewn but nevertheless captivating match that sees the Tunisian face Aryna Sabalenka in the semi-final.
It was revenge for last year’s final defeat for Jabeur who said afterwards: “I hope to keep my emotions under wraps.
“I said to myself that I would go for every shot. The first set should have gone my way. But I kept yelling at my coach who told me to play that way. But I stayed in the zone. I think I’ll end up writing about my emotions.”
Of her opponent in the semi-final, Jabeur said of Sabalenka: “I thought she won [her quarter-final] really quick which I wasn’t happy about and she hits hard like Rybakina.”
As opening games go, this was quite typical, Rybakina raced to 40 and then Jabeur secured a point before the server saw out the game.
How typical it would become during this encounter was yet to be decided.
Unforced errors tend to put weight sheer winners and that tends to decide a match.
Rybakina broke Jabeur to love not with exquisite attacking play, but just with decent defence I’ve shots. She allowed the Tunisian the opportunity to overhit or hit wide, and that’s what she did.
Rybakina then only had to hold her serve to go 4-1 up, but she fluffed her lines and was broken with a string of those very same shots by Jabeur, but this time, they were inside the line.
Games went with serve, with Jabeur needing to hold her at 4-5 – she did.
Then she only went and broke Rybakina to set up. Serve e game to win the set.
She lost the first point before levelling to 15.
Silly points were lost by both sides, with advantage given to both players, which Rybakina took advantage of and the set went to a tie-break.
The greater power play from Rybakina on an individual point proved to be decisive and she went 5-e up with Jabeur to serve.
She saved one set point, before wrong-footing Rybakina to take it to 6-5.
A single powerful serve down the line saw Jabeur hit long and lost the set.
Jabeur did successfully hold the first game of the second set and raced into a love 40 lead on Rybakina’s serve. But great return play saw that three -point advantage disappear quickly and Rybakina saw out her game to level the set at 1-1.
Predictably the set settled down to service wins with Jabeur winning the always dodgy and potentially set-deciding seventh game to take a 4-3 lead.
The crowd were desperate for a throw set and when Rybakina went 15 40 down on her serve they were loving it.
And some jumped in delight when she saw off a weak backhand to take the game and the set.
Jabeur then won her game to much fanfare and took a 2-0 lead by breaking Rybakina to love.
Rybakina, perhaps sensing that they crowd were not so much against her but for Jabeur that it affected her confidence and some wayward shots suggested she was no longer in the tennis ‘zone’.
She promptly went 3-0 down.
But she rallied, literally, and won the fourth game.
Rybakina was unlucky not to break Jabeur and and a couple of Hawkeye decisions went the Tunisian’s way as she held serve to go 4-1 up.
With her confidence at her lowest Rybakina started defeat in the face as she again lost her serve, leaving Jabeur to serve for the match and a place in the semi-final.
Which she inevitably did.
Pictured top: Jabeur v Rybakina Picture: Paul Lagan
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