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Kenin edges Jabeur to land first semifinal

Sofia Kenin stormed into the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career with an impressive 6-4 6-4 success over Ons Jabeur, ending the Tunisian’s historic run at Melbourne Park on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old Kenin saved six of the seven break points she faced during the 92-minute tussle, to record her third tour-level victory against Jabeur. She awaits world No.1 Ashleigh Barty in the semifinals.

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“It feels really good. I'm super excited for it. I think overall I played really good. I tried to handle the nerves. Obviously nerves coming into this match. I think I did a really good job handling myself,” Kenin said.

The only American to make it through to the women’s quarterfinals, from a tournament high 22 that started the main draw, the Moscow-born Kenin produced a convincing performance, watched on by Russian ex-world No.1 and Australian Open 2009 runner-up Dinara Safina in her box.

“I think she’s a great talent. I really enjoy watching her play, it’s fun to watch the way she fights. She plays very smart,” Safina told ausopen.com after the match. The retired Russian exchanges texts with Kenin on Instagram from time to time and was pleased to receive an invite to her box for Tuesday’s bout.

The 25-year-old Jabeur was looking to become the first Arab in history to reach the semifinals of a Grand Slam. The crafty Tunisian already made history this fortnight in Melbourne, becoming the first Arab woman to make a Grand Slam fourth round, and quarterfinal.

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28 Jan 20
Sofia Kenin vs. Ons Jabeur - Match Highlights (QF) | Australian Open 2020

Sofia gets Ons with it to reach final four

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In an intriguing clash at Rod Laver Arena, Kenin broke at love for 2-1 but Jabeur steadied the ship to get back on serve at 3-3.

A 12th unforced error off the Tunisian’s racquet saw her get broken again. Kenin got her first two set points in the ninth game on the Jabeur serve. Back-to-back forehand winners from the North African helped her save both as she held for 4-5.

Three more set points for Kenin flew by and she was suddenly facing a break point. She didn’t have challenges left to question a Jabeur winner that clipped the line but responded well to save it. A smooth drop shot and lob combo earned Kenin a sixth set point and she converted this time, courtesy of a wide forehand from her opponent, to take a one-set lead in 46 minutes.

Jabeur was going for the bigger shots, but Kenin was more solid, making smarter choices, and moving the North African around.

Kenin missed a chance on the Jabeur serve in game five then needed 10 minutes to hold for 3-3, fighting off a trio of break points along the way.

Jabeur fell behind 0-40, and despite clawing her way back to deuce, she faltered to hand over the service break to Kenin, who held at love to march ahead 5-3 and never looked back.

“I’m super excited, it was a tough match. It was a tough moment [at 2-3 in the second set], she was playing well. I feel like after that I got my momentum and started playing better,” Kenin said on court after her win.

Kenin had a sensational 2019, in which she scooped three WTA titles and played at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen as an alternate.

“Of course, I'm rising, so I'm trying to somehow keep my game stable, just play with stability, just play each match one match at a time,” Kenin said.

“Of course, I'm really happy. I've worked really hard to get to where I am. I've done a really hard pre-season. I knew that it's going to help me and it's going to pay off. Thank God it's paying off here.”

Kenin is one victory away from cracking the top 10 for the first time while Jabeur will become the first Arab woman to break into the top 50 when the new rankings are released next week.

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Ons Jabeur during her AO2020 quarterfinal

Jabeur is looking forward to building on this breakthrough fortnight, knowing there is still plenty of room for improvement. The Arab No.1 received huge support back home throughout the tournament, and even received a call from Tunisian president Kais Saied before her quarterfinal.

“I think I proved that I can be in the quarterfinals in a Grand Slam, even if I have a lot of things to improve probably physically and mentally some stuff, for sure,” Jabeur said.

“But I'm happy that I pushed through a lot of things. I proved to myself that I could do a lot of great things. I'm happy that I played this way. I know sometimes I'm hard on myself, but I think I could do better, especially with the moments where it's kind of tough and stressful.

“I think with more experience, I will be able to handle the pressure better.”

Kenin’s father and coach, Alexander, paid tribute to Jabeur’s game and is proud of how his daughter dealt with the occasion.

“She played a very talented girl with a very unique playing style. I’m very proud of her that she found a way to handle it. Because it’s not very easy and it’s completely out of the box. This girl has everything, all the shots that other girls don’t have. So she found a way to beat her,” he said.

Sofia gets Ons with it to reach final four

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