Jabeur Shows Nothing But Joy In Reaching Second Straight Major Final

Ons Jabeur (photo: Garrett Ellwood/USTA)

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON, September 9, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

As soon as Ons Jabeur secured match point to defeat Caroline Garcia 6-1, 6-3 and book her spot in a second straight major final at the US Open Thursday evening, the Tunisian “Minister of Happiness” fell to the court to soak in and reflect upon what she had just accomplished. It was huge.

The crowd that filled Arthur Ashe Stadium showered Jabeur with applause and there were plenty of fans proudly waving their now-familiar red and white Tunisian flags, accented with five-point stars and crescent moons.

The trailblazing 28-year-old Jabeur, who is currently ranked No. 5 and will climb even higher next week, had just risen to the occasion on the biggest stadium in tennis. She became the first Tunisian, first Arab and first African woman to reach the US Open final by dominating her semifinal against a streaking Garcia, who came in as the hottest player in women’s tennis after winning 13 straight and 17 of her past 18 matches – and 31 in all plus three tournament titles since the beginning of June, most in the WTA during this period. Plus, she had won four straight against Top 10 opponents.

Last month, Garcia, 28, became the first champion of the Western & Southern Open, a WTA 1000 hard-court tournament, to win the title after coming through qualifying. Against, the fifth-seeded Jabeur, Garcia was appearing in her first major singles semifinal. The difference in major experience between the two talented competitors became evident from the start. Although Jabeur arrived in New York having struggled during the North American summer hard-court swing, she still had won two tournaments this season – Madrid on clay and Berlin on grass – and had appeared in five finals.

Now, Jabeur is into her sixth final of 2022 at the US Open – including her second straight at a Grand Slam – after having never reached this stage in her first 20 majors. She’s the first player to advance to the title match at Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year since Serena Williams in 2019.

“It feels amazing,” Jabeur told ESPN‘s Pam Shriver during her on-court interview.

In 66 minutes of excellence, Jabeur showed nothing but joy. Everything, it seemed, was going for her. Jabeur’s serve produced eight aces – including three in her first two service games – and she hit 21 winners. In all, she won 83 percent of her first-serve points, didn’t face a single break point and converted all four of her own break-point opportunities. Jabeur outpointed the No. 17 seed Garcia 59-40. The Frenchwoman, who won just 48 percent of her first-serve points, mustered only 12 winners the entire match and committed 23 unforced errors.

“Mentally, I was so ready,” Jabeur said. “After Wimbledon, a lot of pressure on me. I’m really, really relieve that I backed up my result. I’m very glad I made it to the finals here.

“I don’t regret anything. I gave it all today. I don’t disbelieve in myself an I know that I’m going to come back and win a Grand Slam for sure. This is tennis, and it’s part of it. I have to learn from it, definitely. But I’m very, very positive about it.”

Swiatek reaches first US Open final

Next, Jabeur will play for the US Open title Saturday afternoon against World No. 1 and top seed Iga Swiatek of Poland, who rallied to beat World No. 6 and sixth seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, in the second semifinal Thursday evening.

The 21-year-old Polish star, who fought back from a break down in the third set twice, garnered 16 of the final 20 points during the two-hour and 11-minute tussle on Arthur Ashe Stadium. She won the last four games of the match to advance to her first US Open final and became the first Polish woman to reach the US Open title match. It’s her second major final of the year and third of her career. She’s won two French Open titles, in 2020 and earlier this year.

“I was really happy that I was just able to play in such a solid way,” Swiatek said during her on-court interview with ESPN’s Rennae Stubbs. “I had to keep my focus and overcome these obstacles throughout the tournament. I just continued to do that today.”

Swiatek, who outpointed Sabalenka 90-77, hit 24 winners and converted seven of 10 break points. The Belarusian was hampered by seven double faults and made 44 unforced errors. It was Sabalenka’s third loss in a Grand Slam semifinal, after falling in the same round at the US Open last year and earlier this year at the Wimbledon Championships.

Defending champs Ram and Salisbury back in the final, again

No. 1 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain are a win away from successfully defending their 2021 US Open men’s doubles title after defeating 2019 champs and this year’s No. 13 seeds Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both of Colombia, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (6), on Louis Armstrong Stadium Thursday afternoon.

During the three-hour, 12-minute match, Ram and Salisbury combined to hit 10 aces and struck 65 winners to 19 unforced errors. They converted two of nine break points and outpointed their opponents 127-111.

Ram and Salisbury will face No. 2 seeds Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Great Britain in Friday’s title match. The Dutch-British pair eliminated No. 3 seeds Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador, 6-4, 7-5.

Krejcikova and Siniakova reach another major final

Reigning Wimbleodn champs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, both from the Czech Republic, have reached their second major women’s doubles final of the season after beating Nicole Melichar of the United States and Ellen Perez of Australia, 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3.

Next, Krejcikova and Siniakova, who have won five major doubles titles as a team and only lack winning the US Open to complete a career doubles Grand Slam, will play either No. 12 seeds Storm Sanders of Australia and Caroline Dolehide of the United States or Americans Taylor Townsend and Caty McNally in the final.

Sanders and Peers advance to mixed doubles final

Fourth-seeded Aussie duo Storm Sanders and John Peers have reached the mixed doubles final after holding off Americans Caty McNally and William Blumberg, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 10-8. They have dropped just one set through their first four matches.

In Saturday’s title match, Sanders and Peers will play unseeded Kirsten Flipkens of Belgium and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France.

Alcaraz – Sinner: Mutual respect

At 2:50 a.m. Thursday, No. 3 seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain wrapped up a five-hour, 15-minute 6-3, 6-7 (7), 6-7 (0), 7-5, 6-3 quarterfinal victory over No. 11 seed Jannik Sinner to advance to Friday’s semifinals against American Frances Tiafoe. It set a record for the latest finish ever of a US Open match.

Thursday’s US Open results

Friday’s US Open order of play

By the numbers

“Quotable …”

“It’s not easy to talk now because I finished the match not so long ago. But it was a good match from my side, from his side. Could finish in three sets, could finish in four sets, could finish in five sets. The level was high. At some point I didn’t serve that well, but he was returning well. It was a good match. Obviously, the crowd was good. For me, only the second times on Ashe. So, it was a good match for sure. But a very, very tough one.”

– No. 11 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy, commenting in press following his five-set, five-hour and 15-minute marathon quarterfinal loss to No. 3 seed Carlos Alcaraz, which began Wednesday evening and concluded early Thursday morning.