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Wimbledon 2022 Women’s Semi-Finals: Ons Jabeur V Tatjana Maria – Live!

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*Jabeur 6-2 1-3 Maria (*denotes server) A terrible slice from Jabeur at 15-all – she’s on the baseline and the shot barely makes the service box – presents Maria with a glimmer … and though a big serve makes 30-all, another error and she’s facing her first break point of the match. Which is all Maria needs, a nicely-placed drop staying too low to be returned! Do we got ourselves a ball-game?

Jabeur 6-2 1-2 *Maria (*denotes server) Another forehand error from Maria gives Jabeur 0-15, but after constructing the opportunity to hit a winner , she races to the net and slaps a forehand into the tramlines. No matter: another error and another double mean two more break points, the first saved with telling forehand-volley combo … then a slice that dips means Jabeur can’t get under her forehand as she’d like, and the ball drops long. Maria is game, she really is, and she races through advantage to secure her hold – but how can she make an impression when receiving?

*Jabeur 6-2 1-1 Maria (*denotes server) Another ace gives Jabeur 30-15, and though there’s nothing Maria can do about that, she might want to unload the suitcase at any second serve she’s faced with. Meantime, Jabeur nails a backhand down the line then misses one, which takes us to deuce, but Maria nets a forehand and shows her disappointment because that was a chance to hit a winner. In the event, seconds later the game has gone.

Jabeur 6-2 0-1 *Maria (*denotes server) A second double of the match gives Jabeur 15-all, but a deft and definitive volley, then a long return, make 40-15. Maria has come back from a set down in three matches here – though not against players of Jabeur’s calibre – and she holds to 15.

*Jabeur 6-2 Maria (*denotes server) The first ace of the match sets Jabeur away, another is right behind it, and you worry for Maria now. The set is duly clinched to love, and this is all pretty one-sided.

Ons Jabeur lays down an ace. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty ImagesJabeur 5-2 Maria* (*denotes server) They make us change channels, during which we, or I at least, miss what was, apparently, a lovely duel at the net – this time won by Mari, but featuring Jabeur playing a shot facing the wrong way. It gives her 30-0 but we’re soon at 30-all, and a wild forehand cedes yet another break point. This time, she chips and charges, but there’s not enough pace, depth or spin on the approach, so the ball sits up and Jabeur duly rams the pass through her stretch. She’ll now serve for the first set.

*Jabeur 4-2 Maria (*denotes server) Nerves aside, I can see why she’s playing a little safe – Maria doesn’t have the weapons to hurt her, so provided she doesn’t get silly how does she find a way to lose? – but by playing conservatively, Maria is encouraged to attack, and if she hits a streak, she can win. Anyhow, Jabeur hits through the ball in this hold, though it’s only to 30, and she’s starting to get a handle on how to play Maria’s slice.

Jabeur 3-2 *Maria (*denotes server) Maria won a couple of net exchanges early door, but in general she’d do well to stay away from them – she loses one that gives Jabeur 15-30, but more than that, never looked likely to take it, lacking the craft, power and ingenuity of her opponent. We end up at deuce, but on Maria’s advantage, Jabeur’s return sets up a forehand winner into the corner, then she plays two airy slices, the first of which is punished and the second … winds up in the net. Deuce again, and Jabeur is taking too many apparently safe options, taking pace off the ball, when more positive play would probably have her 5-0 up. But instead she gives Maria another chance to close out, and we’re still at one break.

*Jabeur 3-1 Maria (*denotes server) At change of ends, we see VT of Nadal having a hit, which is good news – hopefully we see him tomorrow. Back on Centre, Jabeur nets a forehand, then another, and even if she gets through this match, she won’t get away with a start like this in the final. She didn’t look nervous when she came out, but she doesn’t usually play like this … but she does usually play this that, a gorgeous drop on the run making 30-all. She doesn’t have hands, she has HANDS, and a lovely scoop over the net from close to it, her racket-head changing angle at the last second, makes 40-30. But then a loopy backhand drifts wide – Maria left it confidently but it was close – brings us to deuce, the points against serve all coming from unforced errors, before Jabeur eases to her consolidation, the clinching point a clever backhand caressed down the line.

Tatjana Maria is an early break down. Photograph: Neil Hall/EPAJabeur 2-1 *Maria (*denotes server) At 15-all, Maria lands a serve on the line, looks up at her box who don’t advise her to challenge, then sends down a slow second go. Jabeur, though, is slicing on the return at the moment and puts too much on it, giving away 30-15, but redeems herself with two much better points, one sealed with a disguised drop and the other a big forehand followed by an overhead. Another break point, her fourth in two games, comes and goes, but a double quickly hands her a further opportunity. This time, Maria nets a slice, and at the fifth time of asking, Jabeur breaks and looks far too good despite not having settled yet.

*Jabeur 1-1 Maria (*denotes server) Jabeur takes a big deep breath – smart move – then races to 4-0 before two forehand errors usher Maria into the game. No matter: she dominates the next rally from the back, her weight and angle of shot too good, and she’s on the board.

Jabeur 0-1 *Maria (*denotes server) Jabeur gets herself a break point but, having earned the chance to play a telling volley, she nets a backhand slice. Maria then reaches advantage and can’t close out, a tame second serve handing Jabeur the initiative, and a forehand winner earns a second chance to break. But Maria is solid at the net, putting away an overhead, then volleys well again when Jabeur bunts back a forehand return. She really ought to have opened shoulders there – she’s been a bit tentative so far – but a clever slice soon earns her a third bite, Maria responding with a big, flat serve out wide to the backhand. And from there, she closes out for 1-0, but the signs are there that once Jabeur settles, she’s going to have big problems.

Righto, off we go! Maria to serve…

Jabeur made the quarters last term, losing 4 and 3 to Sabalenka. She’s a lot better than she showed that day, though, and has improved since then too.

Our players are ready … and here they come! Jabeur closes eyes, sticks nose in the air, and embraces the moment. I say this a lot but how do you even process this kind of thing? I’ve not a clue.

I can’t wait to see what Ons Jabeur makes of a major semi. I love her mix of power, spins and guile – she reminds me, in some ways. of Marcos Baghdatis – and if she finds her best level, she’ll be tough to beat. Should she turn up I can’t see Tatjana Maria having much for her.

Ons Jabeur. Photograph: Xinhua/ShutterstockWe see Nadal arriving, perhaps to have a scan on his knacked abdomen. If he can’t play tomorrow, that’d be a massive shame and makes me wonder if the rules should provide for Taylor Fritz to take his place. I know, I know, how can you win a tournament out of which you’ve been knocked, but a semi-final bye sounds roughly as wrong and also denies us a precious last-four contest. I don’t know, but it’s a thought.

Interesting, simple and sage advice from Billie Jean-King on how to prepare for big matches: do everything really slowly.

BREAKING: Elena Rybakina thinks she’ll need to serve well today. More news as i get it.

Serving is very important in tennis. Photograph: Xinhua/ShutterstockPreambleIn the 22 women’s Grand Slam finals since 2017, there’ve been 25 different finalists and 13 different champions; by way of comparison, the first tennis I remember watching was in 1984, and in the 22 majors from then onwards, there were seven finalists and five winners. That change is absolutely ridiculous, in good ways – loads of great players, little idea what’s gonna happen – and bad ways – the best players don’t meet often enough, it’s hard to now who the best players even are . But what’s unarguable is that women’s tennis is the least predictable sport in the world.

So, though on the face of things it looks easy to predict what’s going to happen today – wins for Ons Jabeur and Simon Halep – the titles won by Emma Raducanu, Barbora Krejcikova and Bianca Andreescu, along with the finals reached by Danielle Collins, Jennifer Brady and Marketa Vondrousova, tell us that we don’t know anything. Making the final is about playing well on the day, not being good in general.

Nor are Jabeur and Halep impregnable. The former is under colossal pressure as the highest-ranked player left and first Arab woman to reach this stage of a major. And, though she’s absolutely loving the show, it won’t take much for the pressure to get big on her – especially against an opponent who’s also a close friend and for whom today represents the chance of a lifetime.

Halep, meanwhile, is in glorious form, but remains underpowered against the next generation. Amanda Anisimova only played properly for five minutes yesterday, more than enough time to get the 2019 champ rattled, while Elena Rybakina, now settled into latter-stage life, is just as powerful if not more so and be expected to perform better than she did against Ajla Tomljanovic.

This is going to be good.

Play: 1.30pm BST

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