After making it this far in a grass-court tournament, Coco Gauff’s most impressive run yet was snapped by Ons Jabeur, who defeated the 18-year-old American in the semifinals of the Berlin Open. Jabeur, who was cheered on by fans waving Tunisian flags amid a heatwave in Berlin, battled back from 3-1 down to win the first set, and won the second as well to reach Sunday’s final against Belinda Bencic.
In order to beat Coco, you have to be as good as this. Jabeur said Coco is a great player. In addition, she said she had no expectations for her first grass tournament of the season and paid tribute to the Tunisian fans. “Everywhere I go, they’re always here chanting, it really is amazing,” she remarked.
Jabeur has reached a career-high ranking of fourth in the world this season and became the first African and first Arab player to win a WTA 1000 event at last month’s Madrid Open. After a shock defeat at the French Open, she will be playing in Berlin for the first time. Jabeur will team up with Serena Williams in doubles at Eastbourne next week, following the American’s return after a year away.
It was Gauff’s most successful run on grass, a surface where she had yet to reach the quarterfinals. Her win over Maria Sakkari in the semifinals put Bencic back in the Berlin final for the second year in a row, in the hunt for her first grass-court title since 2007. For Bencic to defeat second-seed Sakkari 6-7 (6), 6-4, 6-4, she had to play more than three hours under the heat.
After Bencic had set point in the tiebreaker, her Greek opponent won three straight points to take the set. Sakkari saved four set points in the second set and two match points in the third before Bencic won. Despite being ranked sixth, Sakkari has never reached a grass semifinal. Having lost to Liudmila Samsonova in last year’s final, the Swiss player now has a chance to win. With one grass title in Eastbourne in 2015, gold medalist Bencic has a 6-8 record in finals, including 1-3 on grass.