Aryna Sabalenka confident she has found the formula for grand slam success

Sabalenka had never previously been beyond the fourth round at a slam despite being the second seed.

Eleanor Crooks
Tuesday 06 July 2021 19:51
<p>Aryna Sabalenka celebrates after beating Ons Jabeur</p>

Aryna Sabalenka celebrates after beating Ons Jabeur

Aryna Sabalenka hopes she has found the formula for grand slam success after seeing off Ons Jabeur to reach her first grand slam semi-final at Wimbledon

The Belarusian had struggled to match her form on the WTA Tour at the slams, admitting she was finding it difficult not to put too much pressure on herself to break through the fourth-round barrier.

She achieved that with victory over Elena Rybakina on Monday and played freely in her first grand slam quarter-final, keeping Jabeur on the defensive and not allowing the Tunisian trailblazer to spin her web of disruption in a 6-4 6-3 triumph.

“The only thing I was thinking about is my game, to stay focused and to fight for every point, for every opportunity I had,” said the 23-year-old, who is the youngest player through to the last four.

“Today it surprised me but I didn’t feel that pressure of being in the quarter-final for the first time. I was just enjoying the atmosphere and enjoying my game, just doing everything I can to win this match. So it was a great performance for me.”

Victory over Karolina Pliskova in the last four would see Sabalenka overtake Naomi Osaka to become number two in the world. She has won more matches than any other woman in 2021 but the slams had become a real roadblock.

“I was struggling at the grand slams with all the emotions (I was) going through,” she said. “After every slam I was so disappointed about myself that I can’t handle this pressure.

“I actually thought that I will never make it to the second week. We worked a lot with my psychologist and with my coach.

“I’m really happy that here in Wimbledon I’m in the second week, I’m still in the tournament, and I still have this opportunity to win a slam. I will do everything I can to reach my goal.”

This was a classic contrast of styles, with the big-hitting Sabalenka against the versatile Jabeur, who was playing in her second slam quarter-final.

They were neck and neck for eight games but Sabalenka held serve to make it 5-4 and then clinched the set with the first break in the 10th game, taking her fifth set point.

Ons Jabeur plays a shot between her legs

Jabeur, who had fought back from a set down against both Garbine Muguruza and Iga Swiatek was the clear crowd favourite and fought back from 0-2 to 2-2 but Sabalenka pulled ahead again and served out the victory.

Tunisian Jabeur praised Sabalenka, saying: “Honestly, I think she played the match of her life. She didn’t do any mistakes. She served well from the beginning until the end.

“But I’m proud of myself for trying and being positive the whole way, because it’s not easy to accept that someone is playing good from the beginning until the end of the match.”

The 26-year-old was proud of her run, saying: “It was really unbelievable moments here. I’m not going to let this loss ruin everything.”

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