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Title favourite Ons Jabeur sets up Wimbledon semi with her ‘barbecue buddy’

Ons Jabeur celebrates after victory against Marie Bouzkova (Steven Paston/PA)
Ons Jabeur celebrates after victory against Marie Bouzkova (Steven Paston/PA)

Ons Jabeur recovered from a set down to beat Marie Bouzkova and reach the semi-finals of Wimbledon for the first time.

The highest seed left in the women’s draw was given her sternest examination of the Championships so far but produced a typically classy response to some big initial challenges to set up a last-four tie with good friend Tatjana Maria.

Jabeur triumphed 3-6 6-1 6-1 to move two victories away from becoming the first woman from Africa to win a singles title at the All England Club.

This was Bouzkova’s maiden outing on Wimbledon’s biggest court but she displayed little nerves and in fact plenty of resolve to hold an eight-minute opening service game.

It appeared to boost the Czech and her athleticism was evident from the off with Jabeur’s trademark drop shots not initially catching her out, which contributed towards a break for the unseeded player to move 3-2 ahead.

Bouzkova also showed plenty of deft touches and Jabeur could only kick away the tennis ball after a fine volley at the net as the first set was won in 41 minutes.

World number two Jabeur had been tipped as the player to beat, after a number of former winners suffered early exits in SW19 alongside top seed Iga Swiatek, and the Tunisian quickly turned the screw at the start of the second.

A volley sealed an early break for the third seed and another was handed out by Bouzkova when she double-faulted.

Two more masterful deft touches from Jabeur forced a decider on Centre Court, which was now close to three-quarters full after plenty of green seats were visible at the beginning of the contest.

A comfort break by Bouzkova ahead of the third set failed to knock Jabeur off her stride.

An extraordinary third point of the decider’s second game saw Bouzkova somehow return while on the floor and move 40-0 up, but Jabeur rattled off five points in a row to break.

The 27-year-old had firmly taken control now and tried a tweener soon after during another game where she would break.

Jabeur failed to dish out a bagel with Bouzkova, who played at a supremely high level in the first set, able to get a break back.

But the favourite for the title produced one more wonderful drop shot before she claimed match point.

Next up is a surprise meeting with world number 103 Maria.

“I’m really, really happy and especially that it happened on this court. I love this court and hopefully the journey can continue,” Jabeur said.

“I love Tatjana so much and her family is so amazing. She is my barbeque buddy, so it will be tough to play her, obviously but she is a great friend and I am really happy she is in the semi-final.”