Big-hitting Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka powers into her first ever Grand Slam semi-final after defeating Ons Jabeur in straight sets at Wimbledon
- Aryna Sabalenka won 6-4, 6-3 to set up a semi final with Karolina Pliskova
- Hard hitting Sabalenka dispatched the versatile Ons Jabeur in just 74 minutes
- Sabalenka finally broke a ‘fourth round barrier’ with victory over Elena Rybakina
From the southernmost extreme of the draw, Aryna Sabalenka has screeched, squealed and smashed her way to the doorstep of the final. No one can say they didn’t hear her coming.
She doesn’t go about her work quietly, and certainly didn’t in edging Ons Jabeur out of this quarter-final, but with each round the second seed has a little more to shout about.
With Karolina Pliskova the next obstacle in her path, and in recognition of the futility of predicting women’s tennis, it remains awfully hard to forecast how it will play out from here. But the fact Sabalenka has started living up to her ranking will cause severe concern among the three others left standing.
Aryna Sabalenka celebrates after sealing her place in the semi finals of Wimbledon
Sabalenka produced a powerful performance to dispatch Ons Jabeur in straight sets
Jabeur couldn’t handle big-hitting Sabalenka’s power game as she crashed out of Wimbledon
Indeed, it is little short of a mystery that the 23-year-old Belarusian had never previously gone beyond the fourth round of a Slam, and within those results had failed to make a more comfortable home for her big hitting on grass.
Even this run has been far from a procession, going back to her difficulties against Britain’s Katie Boulter in the second round, but momentum is a fine thing, and in riding it she looked particularly strong in beating Jabeur.
In doing so she needed to swim against a Centre Court crowd which initially favoured the Tunisian, who has drawn attention both for the creativity of her shot-making, and also because of her status the first African woman since 1989 to go so deep at Wimbledon. Jabeur was buoyed by that goodwill and played well in this match, but she came up against a combination of big serves and hard groundstrokes that she could not equal.
Afterwards, Sabalenka, a winner of two tour events this season, revealed a psychologist has been central to her carrying her form from the regular circuit into a Slam.
Sabalenka (right) is congratulated by Jabeur (left) after winning their quarter final match
A dejected Jabeur makes her way off court after her straight sets defeat on Tuesday afternoon
She said: ‘I was struggling on the Grand Slams with all the emotions. After every Slam I was so disappointed about myself that I couldn’t handle this pressure.
‘I actually thought that I will never make it to the second week, so we worked a lot with my psychologist and with my coach.
‘I was talking a lot about just believing that I can do it, that everything I’ve done I deserve it. It’s helped me to actually be able to show my level on the court.’
That played out in a high-quality match on Centre. Neither gave up much in the early stages, with the exception of a single break point for Jabeur in the very first game. That was dealt with via brute of a service winner, and it was 5-4 in Sabalenkia’s favour before the next chance, when the Belarusian eventually kicked the door down.
In a mammoth game, she required a full five set points to get over the line before Jabeur finally netted to give it up 6-4.
Sabalenka will now face Karolina Pliskova in what will be her first Grand Slam semi-final
Jabeur let slip a 0-40 lead in the first game of the second, allowing Sabalenka to hold and then break for 2-0. She gave it back straight away after falling prey to one of Jabeur’s many drop shots, but reclaimed the break with a driven backhand volley to go 4-3.
True to a good match, Jabeur had a chance to hit back as Sabalenka served for the match, but the opportunity went unclaimed and the latter seal the 6-4, 6-3 win with a huge backhand winner flush up the line.
‘Honestly I think she played the match of her life – she didn’t do any mistakes,’ said Jabeur.
‘The good news is I have things to work on. I’m very positive for the future.’