Jabeur turns up the heat vs.  Tomljanovic, into US Open semis

Jabeur turns up the heat vs. Tomljanovic, into US Open semis

NEW YORK — After defeating unseeded Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 7-6 (4) on Tuesday afternoon at the US Open, Ons Jabeur is into the semifinals.

The pride of Tunisia, Jabeur is ranked No.2 in the Race to the WTA Finals and the fifth seed in New York. Her win against Tomljanovic was her 43rd for the year. Only top-ranked Iga Swiatek has more. Here at the US Open, Jabeur — also a Wimbledon finalist earlier this year — has been solid, dropping only a single set through five matches.

“I believe in myself after Wimbledon,” she said in an on-court interview. “I know that I have it in me to win a [major] final. And here I am in the semifinals.”

It wasn’t an easy day for Jabeur, who at a few points in the match lost some of her composition.

“Emotionally it was kind of tough to manage the frustration,” Jabeur said, referring to a few racquet tosses. “I think I’m going to be fired from my job, as ‘Minister of Happiness.’ I want to apologize for my behavior.”

Here are three takeaways:

A wonderful sense of timing

While her service speeds were nearly identical to Tomljanovic’s, Jabeur demonstrated an uncanny sense of when to turn up the heat. Serving for the first set, she drilled a body serve at the Australian and the result was a short ball she punished for a forehand winner. At 30-15, she ripped a 106 mph ace down the middle — one of four for the match. Those were two free points in a pivotal game, and it made the difference.

It happened again in the second-set tiebreak, when at 5-4, she fired a 107 mph offering down the middle that Tomljanovic barely got a racquet on. By contrast, Tomljanovic had a crucial double fault at 3-4, her ninth of the match.

“I kept repeating to myself [in the tiebreak]’I can, I can,’” Jabeur said.

Likewise, on break points — the crucible where champions are made — Jabeur was better. In five matches, she’s created 53 break-point opportunities, tied with Victoria Azarenka for the most so far, and converted 27, tied with Tomljanovic for first.

Variety, the spice of tennis life

As always, Jabeur proved to be wonderfully handy around the court with the usual array of pleasing shots you don’t see every day.

While her trademark drop shot wasn’t part of the steady diet, her backhand slice was a weapon, particularly when aimed at Tomljanovic’s backhand.

Perhaps the best point of the match came in the seventh game of the first set with Tomljanovic serving at break point. The two moved toward the net and engaged in a volley battle, which Jabeur won with a well-struck backhand volley that looped over the Australian’s head and dropped in.

Jabeur finished with 29 winners and 30 unforced errors.

An enduring sense of history

Jabeur, it seems, makes history every time she plays a major tournament.

Jabeur is the first Arab or African woman to reach the semifinals at the US Open in the Open Era. Previously, she joined Maryna Godwin (1968) and Amanda Coetzer (1994, 1996 and 1998) as the only African women to reach the quarterfinals at the US Open.

She’s now been to the second week of all four majors and is trying to mirror her run to the final at Wimbledon, where she lost to Elena Rybakina.

Speaking of history, Jabeur has altered hers dramatically. After losing the first two Grand Slam quarterfinals of her career — in 2020 at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon — she’s won the past two.

“I’m just trying to do my job here, hopefully I inspire more and more generations from Africa,” Jabeur said. “It really means a lot to me.”

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