Ons Jabeur survived her biggest test yet at Wimbledon on Saturday to storm into the second week and a highly-anticipated fourth-round meeting with two-time champion Petra Kvitova.
Here is a closer look at the Tunisian’s opening week at these Championships, and how she has fared compared to her historic run to the final last year.
A positive sign for Jabeur at SW19 is the fact she has dropped serve just three times in 30 service games through three matches.
The world No. 6 has fired a total of 17 aces in her opening three rounds — the sixth-highest tally among all 128 players at Wimbledon — and has won 84 percent of her first-serve points, which is the second-highest success rate in the women’s field.
After posting two routine victories in her first two rounds — her second-round victory over Chinese qualifier Bai Zhuoxuan lasted just 45 minutes — Jabeur was pushed to her limits by 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in the third round on Saturday.
Andreescu took the first set and led by a break in the decider but Jabeur struck back before rain halted play for an hour, during which the Tunisian regrouped and received some valuable advice from her coach Issam Jellali. She broke in the ninth game of the third set to secure a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win and a place in the last 16.
“Tennis requires a lot of patience and I think this tournament especially has tested me several times already, between the rain and the tough scheduling, but thankfully I feel like I’m learning a lot,” Jabeur told Arab News after her win on Saturday.
“I’m learning to accept situations I have zero control over. I’m trying to see the positive side of this. I managed to play well in two matches in consecutive days, and the rain delay actually helped me because it gave me the chance to speak to my coach and get some tips.”
Consistency and versatility
Jabeur has now made the second week in four of her last five Grand Slams and has made the quarterfinals or better at each of the four majors.
“She has a great game on any surface, actually. I played her on hard, practiced with her on clay, now I played her on grass again. She’s an all-around player,” Andreescu said of Jabeur on Saturday.
“She can kind of do everything. If I had to choose a player to lose to, it would be her. Also because she’s very nice. She’s just great. I really hope she does well in this tournament.”
Jabeur is accompanied this year by coach Jellali, husband and fitness trainer Karim Kamoun, psychologist Melanie Maillard and agent Stuart Duguid.
The team has been helping her stay focused on the task at hand and Jabeur spoke about how vital Jellali’s role was in her third-round win over Andreescu.
“Issam is a very positive coach and he was very enthusiastic during the rain delay,” said Jabeur.
“When he talks to me, you see the enthusiasm, you see how much he is trying to help me in any way possible, and is giving me all the information I need. He was very positive with me in the rain delay. I was a bit emotional and he was calming me down. His role was crucial in this break.”
It only gets tougher from here
Looking ahead, Jabeur may have to defeat five consecutive Grand Slam champions in order to lift the Wimbledon trophy.
Having already ousted Andreescu in round three, Jabeur has Kvitova next before a potential quarterfinal with reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, a possible semifinal with Australian Open winner Aryna Sabalenka, and a looming final against four-time major champion Iga Swiatek.
It is arguably the toughest draw at this point in the second week of a Slam.
Overall, Jabeur feels positive about her opening week.
“I think the level was okay. Today was the big test for me,” she said on Saturday.
“I’m honestly trying to find my rhythm more. That’s the stages of a Grand Slam where you need to play your best tennis. It’s starting from maybe the next round. I’m going to do my best to be ready 100 percent. I believe that the first week matches (has helped me) to get used to the tougher week right now.”
Jabeur is 1-4 head-to-head against Kvitova and lost to the Czech lefty in their sole previous meeting at Wimbledon in 2019.
“We played here a long time ago. Maybe I was kind of (a) bit injured, so it wasn’t my best match,” said Jabeur, reflecting on that match from four years ago.
“She’s an amazing player. I have much more experience right now. I definitely want to go for my revenge. I know the next match I need to be focused, I need to be calm, I need to believe more in myself that I can beat someone like Petra. She plays amazing. She plays very fast. But I will do my best to really do 100 percent to really get ready for that match.”
Kvitova is carrying an eight-match winning streak into her clash with Jabeur, including the Berlin Open on grass last month.