Wimby 22 WTA SF Split

Ons Jabeur vs. Tatjana Maria

“It’s going to be a great match between us, a lot of respect, for sure," Jabeur says of her surprise semifinal with the 103rd-ranked Maria. “Maybe not be friends for two hours—or I don’t know how long the match will go—and be friends again at the end.”

It seems like Jabeur faces a good pal of hers at least once a week; the Tunisian is that kind of person. But there’s no question that she’s close with Maria, a 34-year-old mother of two, and is enjoying her friend’s late-career magic carpet ride to her first Grand Slam semifinal.

More important for the rest of us, this match should offer an entertaining mesh of two unusual game styles: Jabeur and Maria may be the farthest thing from one-dimensional power-baseliners that you’ll find on either tour.


WATCH: Ons Jabeur's ZipRecruiter Player Resume


Maria has always been a believer in the forehand slice, and more recently she has added a hard backhand chop to her repertoire. That proved to be a difficult combination for two Top 20 opponents, Maria Sakkari and Jelena Ostapenko, to handle at Wimbledon. Jabeur, for her part, has never met a ball that she couldn’t try to carve into a delicate drop shot that clears the net by half an inch.

They’ve played three times before, and Jabeur has won twice. But none of those matches were on grass, and none happened within the last three years. Jabeur should be the favorite: She leads the head-to-head, she’s ranked 101 spots higher, and she has gone deep at majors before, while Maria has never been past the third round at a Slam in her 17-year career.

What Maria does have is the knowledge that, after beating the fifth-seeded Sakkari, she can play with anyone; and that if she hangs in, she can find her way across the finish line. Four of her five wins at Wimbledon have been in three sets, and three of them have been 7-5 in the third. Winner: Jabeur

Halep has played and won two close matches against Rybakina, 7-6 in the third in Dubai in 2020 and 6-3 in the third at the US Open last year.

Halep has played and won two close matches against Rybakina, 7-6 in the third in Dubai in 2020 and 6-3 in the third at the US Open last year.


Simona Halep vs. Elena Rybakina

Like the first semifinal, this one pits a player we thought could make it this far against someone we didn’t. Halep, 30, won the Wimbledon title in 2019 and made the semis in 2014. Rybakina, 23, is making Slam semifinal debut, and was just 1-2 in her two grass-court tune-ups.

But the 6-foot Moscow native was probably destined to get here eventually. She has a strong serve and can club a big ball from either ground stroke wing, and her confidence has steadily grown over the last three years. Even down a set to Ajla Tomljanovic in the quarterfinals, Rybakina appeared to be the more confident player, and the one with the match on her racquet.

“I’m just a very calm person,” she explained. “I’m not showing my emotions. It’s always been like this.”


This match will offer clear contrasts. Halep is emotional; Rybakina is calm. Halep is a counter-puncher; Rybakina is a heavy hitter. Put them on opposites of the net and good things, competition-wise, tend to happen. They’ve played two complete matches, and Halep has won two close ones, 7-6 in the third in Dubai in 2020 and 6-3 in the third at the US Open last year.

“To touch her first serve and to try to [put] it back in the court,” Halep said, when she was asked what the key to winning will be. “I know she’s a big hitter. I played against her few times. I’m sure that she has a lot of confidence being in semis now here in Wimbledon.

“But it’s a new match, new challenge. I’m ready for it and I will try to give everything to take my chance.”

Normally, Rybakina might have the advantage on grass, but Halep is showing signs of the form that made her the champion in 2019. She has played two powerful opponents, Paula Badosa and Amanda Anisimova, in her last two matches, and she hasn’t lost a set. Winner: Halep