Ons Jabeur seemed to be well on her way to a first US Open semi-final when she faced some complications and became increasingly frustrated, tossing her racket around. Jabeur had controlled her quarter-final match against Ajla Tomljanovic for much of its duration, establishing a set and a break lead, but a few loose errors arrested her momentum. From 3-2 in the second set, she trailed 5-3, a deciding set closing in.
In the past, the second set would have certainly fallen and possibly also the match, but Jabeur is a different player these days. Down 5-3, she refused to miss in the pivotal moments and beat Tomljanovic 6-4, 7-6 (4) to make the last four.
“I think I’m going to be fired from my job as Minister of Happiness,” said Jabeur, laughing. “It is sometimes tough to manage the frustration. Tennis is a tough sport. I apologise for my behaviour. I wanted to keep calm but the racket kept slipping from my hand.”
A week ago, Tomljanovic spectacularly left her mark on this same stage, defeating Serena Williams in the Arthur Ashe Stadium to likely end the American’s career. Her next win against the in-form Russian Liudmila Samsonova underlined her quality.
But Jabeur is now a top player at the height of her powers. She smothered Tomljanovic early on, taking control with her forehand,. Jabeur lost that freedom during her second-set struggles but found an effective balance between attacking and avoiding mistakes, offering Tomljanovic few free points when it mattered as she ground out a straight-sets win.
After coming so close to winning Wimbledon this summer, Jabeur has used the experience to continue her gradual ascension to the top. Despite not gaining any points from a grand slam final appearance, Jabeur now sits at No 2 in the live rankings, though her final position is not certain.
The Tunisian remains in the form of her life, her ball striking free and sharp, and is armed with greater experience and discipline. She will face the winner of Coco Gauff and Caroline Garcia as she continues to play for the title.