By Martyn Herman
LONDON (Reuters) -Power trumped panache as second seed Aryna Sabalenka blasted past Tunisian Ons Jabeur into the Wimbledon semi-finals with a 6-4 6-3 victory under the Centre Court roof on Tuesday.
In a classic clash of styles the 23-year-old Belarusian had too many destructive weapons for Jabeur as she set up a clash with fellow big-hitter Czech Karolina Pliskova.
Playing in her first Grand Slam quarter-final, Sabalenka kept the intensity and decibel levels turned up to 10 throughout, allowing 21st seed Jabeur few chances to settle.
It was never completely comfortable and Jabeur, making history as the first Arab woman to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals, did produce flashes of the mercurial game that has made her a favourite with the crowds this week.
But Sabalenka was relentless and closed out the win with her 27th winner of a match played mainly on her terms.
“Guys you make this place special, thanks so much for your support. The atmosphere was unbelievable today,” Sabalenka said of the 15,000 crowd on Centre Court — the first day of the tournament that 100% capacity was allowed.
“It looks like everything is working for me. It’s really tricky, shots on the grass. It fits my game and I’m really enjoying my time on the court.”
Jabeur had beaten three Grand Slam champions — Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Iga Swiatek — en route to the last eighth and topped the list of match wins on Tour this season with Sabalenka, both having 33 to their name.
She had a break point in the opening game but could not convert it and from them on the pattern of the match was set, with three or four-stroke rallies the norm.
That suited Sabalenka and after the first nine games all went with serve Jabeur was the first to wobble at 4-5.
Jabeur showed great dexterity to fend off three set points but she buckled on the fourth as Sabalenka crunched another ferocious groundstroke close to the baseline.
Cranking up the pace on her heavyweight serve, Sabalenka went 2-0 up in the second set but Jabeur replied to break back with a trademark dropshot and then hold for 2-2.
But the Tunisian looked flustered by the depth and power of her opponent and her challenge faded away.
Jabeur had a break point when Sabalenka served for the match at 5-3 but could not convert and the Belarusian finished it off with a screaming backhand down the line.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)