After letting last year’s Wimbledon final against Elena Rybakina slip through her fingers when she started to doubt her own tactics Ons Jabeur said sticking to the plan, even in adversity, was key to her revenge victory on Wednesday.
The Tunisian sixth seed returned from losing the first set tiebreak to beat the world number three 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1 to reach the semifinals. Unlike in her previous round victory over Petra Kvitova, she mostly eschewed her famed slice-and-dice approach and instead went toe to toe with one of the hardest hitters in the women’s game.
She began to question the approach after losing the tiebreak but stood firm and eventually ran away with it as she took eight of the last nine games. “Sometimes someone like Elena pushes you to play different plans but I’m glad that I did stick to the one we agreed on,” Jabeur said.
“After the first set I kept yelling at my coach saying, ‘You told me to play like this and look what’s happening’. She was putting a lot of pressure on me so I’m very, very glad that I stayed focused. I turned the anger into me focusing and taking command of the game.
“But most of all I think I was hitting fast. I was thinking ‘If you want to hit hard, I’m ready to hit hard, too’”.
Jabeur said the pain of last year’s final defeat, where she won the first set, and then her straight sets defeat to Iga Swiatek in the U.S. Open final contributed to her being able to better deal with the pressure on Wednesday.
“Last year maybe I wasn’t ready to play this kind of match,” she said. “I don’t regret last year, it happened for a reason, but it’s given me a lot of experience dealing with different situations in matches, learning how to handle it. That helped me a lot with the game today. “I learned a lot from the final last year and I’m very proud of myself for the improvement that I made mentally, physically and with the tennis racquet.
“I also think I’m hitting better. I’m more confident in my shots. Serve-wise I think it’s getting better and it definitely needs to get better, especially playing players like her or Aryna (Sabalenka, who she will face in the semi-final on Thursday).” Jabeur said she pretty much threw caution to the wind after losing the first set but was surprised to discover that in the second she hit 14 winners and made only three unforced errors.
“I was like ‘whoa, is this me really?’ But believing that I can hit as hard as the other players, I think that makes the difference for me. That’s what I’m doing right now.”
The defending champion was left to rue her poor serving. “I had a lot of opportunities, especially in the second set, but I felt that my serve wasn’t that great,” she said.
“Since it’s my weapon and it was not working that well. But she returned really well and was going for some shots, especially in important moments.”
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