Tunisia's Ons Jabeur returns the ball to Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka during their women's singles semi-finals tennis match. Image Credit: AFP

Wimbledon: There was a time when Ons Jabeur might not have recovered from the deficit she found herself in during the Wimbledon semifinals. Down a set. Down a break. So close to being just a game from defeat.

She credits her sports psychologist with helping her understand how to deal with those on-court situations, with managing to keep her focus, keep her strokes on-target. Thanks in part to that, and a steadiness down the stretch at Centre Court on Thursday, Jabeur is on her way to a second consecutive final at the All England Club and her third title match in the past five Grand Slam tournaments.

Now she wants to win a trophy. The sixth-seeded Jabeur earned the right to play for one again by beating big-hitting Aryna Sabalenka 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3.

“I’m very proud of myself, because maybe old me would have lost the match today and went back home already. But I’m glad that I kept digging very deep and finding the strength," said Jabeur, a 28-year-old from Tunisia who is the only Arab woman and only North African woman to reach a major final.

Tunisia's Ons Jabeur (L) hugs Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka after winning their women's singles semi-finals tennis match. Image Credit: AFP

'Learning to transform'

“I’m learning to transform the bad energy into a good one,” Jabeur said, explaining that she was able to get over the anger she felt after the first set. “Some things I have no control over: She can ace any time. She can hit the big serve, even if I have a break point. That’s frustrating a bit. But I’m glad that I’m accepting it and I’m digging deep to just go and win this match — and, hopefully, this tournament.”

To do that, Jabeur will need to get past Marketa Vondrousova, a left-hander from the Czech Republic, on Saturday. Vondrousova became the first unseeded women’s finalist at Wimbledon since Billie Jean King in 1963 by eliminating Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 earlier Thursday.

So far, Jabeur is 0-2 in Slam finals after losing to Elena Rybakina at the All England Club last July and to Iga Swiatek at the U.S. Open last September.

Jabeur’s victory Thursday, which came by collecting 10 of the last 13 games, prevented No. 2 Sabalenka from replacing Swiatek at No. 1 in the rankings. Sabalenka came into the match with a 17-1 record at majors in 2023, including a trophy at the Australian Open.

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Jabeur trailed 4-2 in the second set when she began to turn things around. But not before Sabalenka came within a point from leading 5-3 after Jabeur put a forehand into the net and fell onto her back on the grass of Centre Court.

She dusted herself off and broke to take that game and begin her big comeback. When she delivered a backhand return winner to force the match to a third set, Jabeur held her right index finger to her ear, then raised it and wagged it as she strutted to the changeover.

Unforced errors

Sabalenka’s shots missed the mark repeatedly. She finished with far more unforced errors than Jabeur: The margins were 14-5 in the last set and 45-15 for the match.

A break put Jabeur up 4-2 in the third, but there was still some work to be done. Sabalenka, as powerful a ball-striker as there is on tour, erased four match points before Jabeur converted her fifth with a 103 mph ace.