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Ons Jabeur makes grand slam history as she reaches Wimbledon semifinals

By Ben Morse, CNN

Ons Jabeur made history on the grass courts of Wimbledon Tuesday as she became the first Arab or North African woman to reach the semifinals of a grand slam.

The world No. 3 rallied from a set down, overcoming a nervy start, to beat Marie Bouzková 3-6 6-1 6-1 on Centre Court.

But after reaching the final four, she said that it had been a long time coming for her personally.

“I was hoping that I could get to this stage for a long time already. I struggled a few times in the quarterfinal,” Jabeur told the media afterwards.

“I was talking a little bit to (former world No. 22) Hicham Arazi, and he told me: ‘Arabs always lose in the quarterfinals and we are sick of it. Please break this.’ I was like: ‘I’ll try, my friend’ … We were just texting, and he was really happy. He was like: ‘Thank you for finally making the semifinal. Now, you can really go and get the title.'”

For Jabeur, a quarterfinalist at last year’s Wimbledon and at the Australian Open in 2020, it was a case of finding her feet on the historic court.

After a sloppy first set, in which Bouzková’s defense and speed helped unsettle Jabeur into making untimely mistakes, the Tunisian finally found her feet.

The 27-year-old hit more winners than errors in the final two sets, winning eight consecutive games from 2-1 in the second set.

And she won eight of the last nine points in the final set to clinch an important and groundbreaking victory.

Jabeur will face fellow first-time semifinalist Tatjana Maria for a spot in the final.

Maria is enjoying her own remarkable run in reaching the semifinals, just 15 months after the birth of her second daughter.

The German and Jabeur are good friends away from tennis, with Jabeur admitting the world No. 103 is her “BBQ buddy.”

“It’s so nice to see her with her babies on tour. The fact that she really came back and did everything and, really, she deserves to be here,” Jabeur said. “She had a really tough draw, winning against (Jelena) Ostapenko, winning against (Maria) Sakkari. Really, she played really good. I know she could play really good on grass.

“Obviously, it’s tough to play her and I was joking with (Maria’s first daughter) Charlotte, I was telling her: ‘Are you going to support me or your mom?’ I’m trying to turn all the kids to my side … I’m really happy for her that she’s getting what she deserves. I know she struggled a lot. It’s not easy coming back after having two babies. It’s going to be a great match between us, a lot of respect, for sure.”

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