Jabeur beats shaky Garcia at US Open and reaches second Grand Slam final

NEW YORK (AP) — Ons Jabeur reached a second consecutive Grand Slam title match without producing her best tennis on Thursday night, taking full advantage of a shaky performance from Caroline Garcia to win their US Open semifinal 6-1, 6 -3 .

5 seed Jabeur, a 28-year-old from Tunisia, came second at Wimbledon in July and will now become the first African woman to compete in a US Open final in the professional era, dating back to 1968.

“After Wimbledon, there was a lot of pressure on me,” said Jabeur after a win that lasted just over an hour, “and I’m really relieved to confirm my results.”

Jabeur will aim for her first major championship on Saturday when she meets the winner of the semi-final between No. 1 Iga Swiatek from Poland and No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka from Belarus.

None of the last four women’s players have ever made it to the final in New York.

The same goes for the semi-finalists of the men playing Friday: No. 3 Carlos Alcaraz from Spain against No. 22 Frances Tiafoe from the United States and No. 5 Casper Ruud from Norway against No. 27 Karen Khachanov from Russia.

With four-time major champion Arantxa Sanchez Vicario in her guest box – they exchanged thumbs up at the end of the match – Jabeur improved to 6-0 in the semi-finals this season, taking her tour-leading 92nd overall win since the start of 2021. Number 91 made it to the quarterfinals this week, when she defeated Ajla Tomljanovic, who knocked out Serena Williams in the third round.

Two months ago, Jabeur became the first African woman and Arab woman to reach the Wimbledon final, eventually losing to Elena Rybakina. Now Jabeur, who fell to her knees and let out a scream as the semi-final ended against Garcia and followed by lying on her back in the center of the pitch, has another shot at a trophy.

On this 75 degrees (24 degrees Celsius) night under the lights at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Jabeur didn’t have to be at her best, but she was still pretty good.

She finished with 21 winners _ after one helped by an accidental bounce off the top of the net, Jabeur raised a hand to apologize and blew a kiss in the air _ and just 15 casual errors. She delivered eight aces. She hit 4 for 4 on break odds and never conceded one.

When Jabeur took the lead in the second break to lead 3-1 in just 40 minutes, the game wasn’t won yet, but it might as well have been.

After a moment of silence to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s death, Garcia won the toss and chose to serve, which made sense when you consider she’s leading the tour in aces in 2022 (though she only hit two on Thursday) .

But the 28-year-old player from France was instantly broken, thanks to four different types of fouls: a netted forehand, a wide forehand, a long backhand and, most disturbingly and perhaps most reflective of nerves, what should have been an easy forehand. , stowed volley that she could barely make contact with and tipped into the bottom of the net.

It was a rather unfavorable and nervous start for Garcia, No. 17, who came in with a 13-game winning streak, the longest of her career, and had not lost a set at Flushing Meadows en route to her debut in a Slam semifinal. Tuesday evening included a victory over 18-year-old American Coco Gauff.

But there were no signs of the confident, sharp, attacking play Garcia showed against Gauff _ en route to 31 match wins and three titles in that span since early June.

Instead, Thursday’s semi-final was an extension of the one-sided series between two players who first started playing as juniors more than a decade ago. Including those encounters as teenagers, Jabeur is now 7-0 against Garcia.

Jabeur’s style of mixing spins and speeds, of throwing drop shots to keep enemies off balance, wasn’t even fully on display. At times, especially early, Jabeur seemed content to keep the balls in play, sending slashed backhands deep into the center of the field and waiting for Garcia to make a mistake.

Of Jabeur’s initial 18 points, 12 came via unforced errors from Garcia’s racket, a pattern that would continue.

“Mentally,” said Jabeur, “I was so ready.”