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Sabalenka to Face Jabeur for Spot in Wimbledon Final

No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka will play for a spot in her first Wimbledon final, and the world No. 1 ranking, when she faces Ons Jabeur in the semifinals. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Wimbledon—Riding a snarling serve and dynamic drives, Aryna Sabalenka streaked into her fourth straight Grand Slam semifinal today.

The second-seeded Sabalenka swept Madison Keys 6-2, 6-4 in a powerful performance on No. 1 Court charging into her second Wimbledon semifinal—and moving one win closer to surpassing Iga Swiatek for the world No. 1 ranking.

Australian Open champion Sabalenka surged through the final four games in a row rolling into her sixth semifinal in her last eight Grand Slam appearances.

Afterward, Sabalenka said she has a double dream: Win Wimbledon and reach No. 1 for the first time.

“To be honest, I want both,” Sabalenka said. “But I’m trying to focus on myself because I know if I’ll start thinking about all this stuff, I’m going to lose my focus on court, my game.

“So I’m trying to focus on myself right now and make sure that every time I’m on the court I bring my best tennis.”

Sabalenka will play sixth-seeded Ons Jabeur for a spot in Saturday’s final.

In a rematch of the 2022 final, Tunisian trailblazer Jabeur converted five of nine break-point chances defeating defending champion Elena Rybakina, 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1 in one hour 53 minutes on Centre Court.

“It’s really amazing to be back in the semifinals,” Sabalenka said in her on-court interview. “Since I was a little I was dreaming about Wimbledon title. It’s something special.

“I mean Wimbledon, it’s just different. It’s more special. It doesn’t matter who’s going to win that match, Rybakina or Ons, it’s going to be a tough battle and I’m really looking forward.”

Should Sabalenka, who has won three of four meetings with Jabeur, including a 6-4, 6-3 triumph in the 2021 Wimbledon quarterfinals, reach the final she will be new world No. 1 after Elina Svitolina toppled top-seeded Swiatek in yesterday’s quarterfinals.

Bidding for her first Wimbledon semifinal—and to join Venus Williams, Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati as the fourth American woman to reach all four Grand Slam semifinals since 2000—Keys made a concerted push to force a decider.

Blocking a fine forehand volley, Keys opened a 4-2, 40-love lead in the second set as her fiance and current coach, Bjorn Fratangelo, leaped from his seat and the packed No. 1 Court crowd roared hoping for a decisive set.

Keys, who carried a nine-match grass-court winning streak into this quarterfinal and won her lone lawn clash vs. the big-hitting Belarusian, was a point from 5-2, and had her opponent believing a third set was looming.

“She played unbelievable tennis, like, the whole match. In those, like, few games, she played unbelievable,” Sabalenka said. “When she was serving for 5-2, 40-Love up, I was just, like, kind of telling myself that it’s okay, we going to play third set, that’s fine.

“Just try to put a little more pressure on her in this set so she didn’t feel that much, like, confidence going into the third set. I was just, like, trying my best. Lucky me, I won that game somehow, yeah, and turn around that second set.”

The difference between this more mature and polished version of Sabalenka than the talented, but sometimes implosive player who made her maiden semifinal at the 2021 Wimbledon is she doesn’t freak out under stress nearly as much and accepts the ebbs and flows of a match.

Continuing to attack her shots, Sabalenka caught fire again and quickly quelled the uprising. Sabalenka stormed through 12 consecutive points, breaking back in the seventh game and slashing a 108 mph ace down the T to level at 4-all.

In a match of two premier power players, Sabalenka’s skill slamming her serve closer to the lines, her stronger second serve and her brutal backhand were simply too much for the last American woman in the draw. When Keys tried to change direction with her backhand down the line, she often failed to get enough net clearance and saw those drives die into net.

Sabalenka won 12 of 19 points played on Keys’ second serve and sometimes pushed the 2017 US Open finalist back off the baseline with the depth and weight of her returns.

At times, it looked like Keys was trying to counter a bowling ball blasted back at her from a rocket launcher.

“Obviously a very tough day,” Keys said in her post-match presser. “I mean, I think Aryna played really well. I had chances in the second set and didn’t capitalize on them. Sometimes that’s how things go.

“Overall still a really good tournament for me.”

Crunching a crackling return, Sabalenka earned break point in the ninth game. Keys, who used her net play to rally from a set down and defeat 16-year-old qualifier Mirra Andreeva in the fourth round, did the right thing attacking net but botched a forehand volley long to cede a second straight break and 5-4 lead to the No. 2 seed.

The 25-year-old Sabalenka, who was banned from Wimbledon last year along with fellow Belarusian and Russian players, stung a second serve off the sideline and banged one final backhand drawing the error to close in one hour, 27 minutes.

Sabalenka, who is seeking her first career grass-court championship, raised her 2023 record to 39-8, including a sparkling 17-1 record in Grand Slam play.

The last time a woman won 17 of her first 18 Grand Slam matches in a season was back in 2015 when Serena Williams did it. 

The semifinal pits Sabalenka’s jolting power against Jabeur’s slick skills shifting the spins and speeds of her shots.

In their lone Wimbledon meeting three years ago, Sabalenka hit through Jabeur 6-4, 6-3 rolling into her maiden major semifinal. 

Playing beneath the closed roof that day, Sabalenka’s damaging drives reverberated throughout Centre Court. Sabalenka channeled her power with precision stinging 26 winners against 20 errors and denying six of seven break points she faced.

The rematch could be a closer clash as both women are more confident and accomplished in Grand Slam play now and they already shared the court as practice partners a week before the tournament began.

Sabalenka said she expects a special showdown when the roll the balls out and play for a place in the final.

“We practiced here before Wimbledon. I felt like she’s going to do well here because she played unbelievable tennis on practice court,” Sabalenka said. “I know it’s different on practice than on match. She was able to bring this level on matches.

“It’s not like I didn’t expect that. Yeah, she’s a great player. We always had tough battles against each other, very close matches. I really looking forward for this great battle.”