Ons Jabeur is demonstrating supreme belief at the All England Club in 2022.
For the first time in her trailblazing career, the world No.2 will appear in a Grand Slam semifinal, following a three-set win over Marie Bouzkova at Wimbledon on Tuesday.
At every step along her journey this fortnight, Jabeur has been expected to succeed.
The latest example was in the fact she was a heavy favourite against the untested Bouzkova, the world No.66 who had never previously gone beyond the second round of a major.
Despite dropping the first set, Jabeur rebounded strongly to prevail 3-6 6-1 6-1.
“I think with playing a lot of matches and learning how to play better and never give up will help me personally win the second set and the third set,” said Jabeur, the No.3 seed at this year’s Championships.
“It means a lot. I was hoping that I could get to this stage for a long time already. I struggled few times in the quarterfinal.
“Hopefully my journey will continue.”
Indeed, Jabeur first reached a major quarterfinal two-and-a-half years ago at Australian Open 2020, which she followed with a trip to the Wimbledon quarterfinals last year.
She was expected to go further a few weeks ago at Roland Garros, arriving in Paris as the Madrid champion and Rome finalist with a sparkling 17-3 record on clay in 2022.
But feeling both the physical and mental strain of those efforts, she bowed out in the very first round, losing to world No.52 Magda Linette.
Instead of being broken by that significant setback, it proved emboldening.
“Going to the French Open, I really felt that pressure of everybody expecting me to do well. I wasn't used to that,” she admitted on the weekend before Wimbledon.
“I tried to learn from that, not overplay, not play a lot of matches on grass, just prepare myself for the main goal. For me the main goal was Wimbledon even before the year starts.
“I think the good thing is I keep positive, and I always say something bad happens, because there is a great thing coming. I believe there is still great things coming for me.
“I feel like I want those things to happen so I can learn. Maybe sometimes I need to learn the hard way. For sure it happened for a reason. Maybe I wasn't prepared enough. Maybe I didn't do something good enough. But I try to do everything hundred percent.
“It didn't go well for the French Open. Maybe something big is happening here.”
She quickly re-set to win the WTA grass-court title in Berlin, again arriving at a Slam as one of the favourites and logical contenders.
This time, she has performed brilliantly.
Cruising through her first three rounds, Jabeur then survived a thrilling contest against Elise Mertens, as the bottom half of the draw imploded around them.
The tension between Jabeur and Mertens in that set was palpable. Great tennis in spite of that, but boy, it really feels like they know exactly where they stand in their half of the draw.— Victoria Chiesa (@vrcsports) July 3, 2022
Ons Jabeur gets through a tough one, 7-6(9), 6-4 over Elise Mertens to reach the #Wimbledon quarterfinals for a second straight year.— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) July 3, 2022
#2 Jabeur's draw *should* be a feast for her, facing #66 Marie Bouzkova and then either #97 Jule Niemeier or #103 Tatjana Maria.
Jabeur was steadier when it mattered most, bravely fighting off five set points in the opening set, then winning 7-6(9) 6-4.
Back in another major quarterfinal and with a chance to break new ground, Jabeur made the most of her opportunity – simultaneously achieving history by becoming the first Arab or North African woman to progress to a Slam semifinal.
“I'm glad that I can achieve this milestone,” the 27-year-old said.
“I was talking a little bit to (former Moroccan pro) Hicham Arazi, and he told me, ‘Arabs always lose in the quarterfinals and we are sick of it. Please break this’. I was, like, I'll try, my friend, don't put this in my hand (smiling).
“We were just texting, and he was really happy. He was, like, ‘Thank you for finally making the semifinal. Now you can really go and get the title’.”
Ons Jabeur becomes the first Arab or North African player - man or woman - to reach a Grand Slam semi-final.— Reem Abulleil (@ReemAbulleil) July 5, 2022
The Tunisian world No.2 beats Maria Bouzkova 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 to set up a Wimbledon last-four clash with her good friend Tatjana Maria.
Arabs were 0-11 in GS QFs.
She is just two wins away from doing just that, and the expectation will be no less when she faces unlikely semifinalist Tatjana Maria, a 103rd-ranked mother-of-two who had lost in the first round of her previous eight major tournaments.
Told by a journalist that her picture was everywhere in a Tunisian city that hosts an ITF tournament, Jabeur was thrilled.
“It really means a lot… I haven't been in Tunisia for a couple of months now. I'm not sure what kind of picture they are putting but I'm hoping they are pretty ones,” she joked.
“It's really nice, and I hope, really, I'm trying to inspire the new generation.
“We know we have a lot of talented players. We have great tournaments in Tunisia, not just juniors but a lot of other ones.
“I hope this (Wimbledon run) could push them more to do better and see more players on tour.”