Tunisian professional tennis player, Ons Jabeur, on Saturday became the first Arab woman to reach the fourth round of the French Open after defeating eighth seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(7) 2-6 6-3.
The 30th seed displayed her trademark court craft to undermine Sabalenka’s power as she surpassed her previous best third round showing at Roland Garros in 2017.
Sabalenka led 5-1 in the opening set tie-break, but a series of errors allowed 26-year-old Jabeur to snatch it.
Former French Open junior champion Jabeur’s level dipped in the face of some fierce Sabalenka hitting as the second set slipped away in little over 20 minutes.
But the Tunisian, became the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final in Australia this year, by re-grouping and forging 3-0 ahead in the deciding set.
She also had points for a 4-0 lead, but Belarussian Sabalenka upped the intensity and the decibel level to stay in contention.
Sabalenka saved three match-points at 2-5, then had a break point in the next game but Jabeur remained composed as she brought up a match-point and showed great touch to angle away a short forehand, before sealing the win with a first serve.
“[It was a] tough, tough match. She really hits hard. She’s such an aggressive player. Actually she didn’t give me a lot of opportunities, especially in the second set,” Jabeur said after the match.
“I mean, I was serving for the set, but I don’t know what happened in there. Actually she was playing really good. To be honest, I had no regrets losing that game.
“But then I had to still do a lot of slices, drop shots, mix it up. I know that could bother her a lot. I’m so happy that that game really worked today.”
She added, “Today was [about] staying calm, to be honest. She was screaming, fighting every point… in some very important points. Especially when she got back at 6-6,” Jabeur said. “For me, I wanted to stay calm because I had no reason to be angry. I think that helped me a lot today.
“In the other matches I just wanted to play my game, like really enjoy on clay. Today, obviously the match was even harder. Tomorrow, it’s going to be also. I mean, after tomorrow is also going to be harder. I like how I play. I like how I mix it up. Obviously, I’m going to continue doing that. Hope the drop shot will always help me.”
Jabeur will bid for her second Grand Slam quarterfinal of the season in the match, having also done so at the Australian Open before being beating by eventual champion Sofia Kenin.
“I played against Muguruza in Hobart this year. It was kind of a tough match. If I play her, then I’m probably going for my revenge. Maybe playing on clay will be better for me. I like the way I’m playing right now, mix it up, doing all the stuff I want to do.
“Collins, I never played against her. She’s a tough player. Let’s see. I hope they play for five hours and get tired, and I’m going to be relaxing right now.”
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