Coco Gauff’s best run yet in a grass-court tournament has come to an end when the 18-year-old American lost to Ons Jabeur 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 in the semi-finals of the Berlin Open.
Cheered on by fans waving Tunisian flags amid a heatwave in Berlin, Jabeur recovered from 3-1 down in the first set on Saturday and dominated the second to set up a final against Belinda Bencic.
“You have to be this good to beat Coco, you know. She’s a great player,” Jabeur said.
She added she had “no expectations” in her first grass tournament of the season and paid tribute to the Tunisian fans.
“Everywhere I go they’re always here, they’re chanting all the time, it’s amazing,” she said, as she prepared for her fourth final of the season.
It’s a campaign in which Jabeur has reached a career-high ranking of fourth in the world and became the first African and first Arab player to win a WTA 1000 event at last month’s Madrid Open.
The tournament in Berlin is her first since a surprise first-round loss at the French Open.
Next week, Jabeur is heading to Eastbourne, where she will team up with Serena Williams in doubles on the great American’s return after a year out.
Gauff’s run in Berlin was her best yet on grass, a surface on which she hadn’t previously reached any quarter-finals.
Olympic champion Bencic is back in the Berlin final for the second straight year in her quest for a first grass-court title in seven years after a hard-fought win over Maria Sakkari.
Bencic needed to play more than three hours in the heat to beat second-seeded Sakkari 6-7 (6-8) 6-4 6-4 in their semi-final.
Bencic had set point in the first-set tiebreaker before her Greek opponent won the next three points to take the set.
The second set and decider were also closely contested, with Sakkari saving four set points in the second and two match points in the third before Bencic broke through.
Sakkari is ranked sixth, 11 places above Bencic, but had never played a grass semi-final before.
The Swiss player has a chance to win the Berlin title after losing last year’s final to Liudmila Samsonova.