Haddad Maia makes history

 - Simon Cambers

No.14 seed upsets Jabeur to become first Brazilian woman to make RG semis in Open Era

Beatriz Haddad Maia, quarts de finale, Roland-Garros 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Beatriz Haddad Maia became the first Brazilian woman to reach the semi-finals at Roland-Garros in the Open era after she upset Ons Jabeur 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-1 on Wednesday.

The No.14 seed, who played the longest women's match of the year in the previous round, pulled away in the third set to become the first Brazilian into the last four of any Slam since Maria Bueno in 1968 at the US Open.

Story of the match

The runner-up at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, Jabeur went into the match as favourite, having won their only previous meeting, in Stuttgart in April, in just an hour.

Dressed in her familiar outfit of maroon skirt and red top, the Tunisian began well, breaking for 2-0 thanks to a couple of thumping forehands, only for the left-handed Haddad Maia to break straight back.

Jabeur quickly got back on track, with her forehand doing particular damage. A brilliant flicked cross-court pass set up a break for 3-1 and she saved two break points in the following game to extend her lead.

Haddad Maia had won her last three matches in Paris in three sets, though, and she set about working her way into the match, holding serve and then breaking back for 4-3.

Jabeur still held the edge, though, and she broke again for 5-3 and after a first ace, she sealed the set with a forehand winner after 43 minutes.

After five breaks in the opening set, both women settled into their rhythm at the start of the second.

Haddad Maia tried to vary her line of attack, hitting more spin and angles, but she couldn’t make the breakthrough on the Jabeur serve, which yielded just three points in her first five service games of the set.

The pressure was building on Haddad Maia but she was rock solid, saving two break points to lead 6-5. The Brazilian clubbed a big backhand return to set up a set point, only to send a forehand into the tramlines as Jabeur held.

The momentum was beginning to change, though, and after surging ahead 3-0 in the tiebreak, Haddad Maia held firm to take it 7-5 and take the match into a decider.

Beatriz Haddad Maia, quarter-final, Roland-Garros 2023© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Jabeur saved two break points at the start of the third but suddenly she looked jaded and Haddad Maia broke, before holding for 2-0. The stress was showing on the Tunisian’s face and with her second serve sitting up to be hit, Haddad Maia needed no second invitation, hammering a return winner to break again for 3-0.

Jabeur looked downhearted but gave herself hope when she broke back with a fine forehand return. The hope was fleeting, though, as Haddad Maia continued to throw everything at the Tunisian and though Jabeur saved three break points, a superb forehand cross-court on the angle gave her a second break again.

A lucky net cord winner return at 4-1 gave Jabeur 15-30 and she had four break points but couldn’t take them.

That was Jabeur’s last chance. Haddad Maia quickly moved to three match points and though Jabeur saved one, she sent a forehand way over the baseline to give Haddad Maia a remarkable victory, the Brazilian standing in shock, her hands on her face, almost unable to take in what she had achieved.

Ons Jabeur, quarter-final, Roland-Garros 2023© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT

Key Stats

Haddad Maia attacked the Jabeur second serve

In the second set, Jabeur lost just one point on her first serve, such was the quality of her placement. But her second serve was vulnerable throughout, winning just 36 per cent of points on it in the final set, mostly because Haddad Maia was standing inside the baseline to return and took her time away. The quality of the Brazilian’s returns also contributed to Jabeur’s low first serve percentage of 51 per cent, which just added to the pressure.

Targeting the Jabeur forehand

Jabeur had an average day on drop shots and her forehand proved to be vulnerable. In total, she made 25 unforced errors on that side, while the left-handed Haddad-Maia was much more solid, waiting for her opportunities and taking them.

Jabeur ran out of steam

From the highs of the second set, in terms of stats, Jabeur’s serve seemed to fall off in the third. In the decider, Haddad Maia won 12 of 19 points on Jabeur’s first serve and the confidence flowed through the Brazilian as she romped to victory.  

What the winner said

On how she managed to win:

“I’d like to thank everybody who came today to support me, especially the Brazilians.

“I think in Grand Slams we have the chance to recover for one day, so I had a day off and I have an amazing team. I think we work all year long to be in this moment. I remember in the middle of the second set, my coach showed me the clock, it was one hour and a half, and I thought, 'OK maybe I have two more hours'. I had to be patient, she’s one of the best players in the world. I’m very happy with me and my team today."

On Jabeur:

“She’s a very nice person, this means a lot for us as a women tennis player, she represents us on and off the court. Not easy to play against her, she’s streaky sometimes. I had to be patient. It’s not easy to keep the rhythm with the shots in two, three hours. I always believe in my body, when the matches go long.”

Ons Jabeur, Beatriz Haddad Maia, Roland-Garros 2023, quarter-final© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT