Tunisian fifth seed Ons Jabeur overcame her own frustrations to reach the U.S. Open semifinal by beating Australian Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4, 7-6(4) on Tuesday, becoming the first Arab woman to make the final four at the New York hard court major.
Tomljanovic survived tennis’ biggest spotlight when she beat Serena Williams in a packed, third-round prime time affair on Friday but could not keep up in the quarter-final after Jabeur sent over three aces and 15 winners in the first set.
The Wimbledon finalist has a well-earned reputation as Tunisia’s “Minister of Happiness” but found her own good cheer tested as the unforced errors piled up in the second set and she threw her racket several times.
Although she broke Tomljanovic in the opening game of the second set, her grip on the match began to waver as her serve deteriorated and the Australian converted three of four break point opportunities.
“I think I’m going to be fired here from my job, Minister of Happiness,” Jabeur joked in an on-court interview.
“Tennis is a tough sport and I apologise for my behaviour... but the racket kept slipping away from my hand.”
Tomljanovic handed Jabeur a break with a double fault in the ninth game and whacked the ball into the net on the final point of the tiebreak as the stone-faced Tunisian pumped her fist in a subdued celebration.
“It was kind of tough to kind of manage the frustration,” Jabeur said. “She keeps fighting and she makes it tough for me.”
The 28-year-old said she was trying to build confidence match-by-match after years of early exits on the Grand Slam stage, with her run to the Wimbledon final proving she belongs in upper echelons of the sport.
“Knowing that I could make finals in Grand Slams really helped my game, just trying to build that experience to go into second weeks in Grand Slams,” she told reporters.
She next faces France’s Caroline Garcia, who is playing some of the best tennis of career and last month became the first qualifier to win in Cincinnati.
“I know she plays really aggressive, and a tough game,” said Jabeur.
“So whoever is going to be able to impose her game is going to be in better form. So I will try to play my game. I will try to be me.”