August 16, 2022

World No. 2 Ons Jabeur withstood a daunting challenge from 24th seed Elise Mertens to advance to her second straight Wimbledon quarter-final, beating the Belgian 7-6(9), 6-4 in the fourth round . Jabeur will face Czech Marie Bouzkova for a spot in her first major semi-final.

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Jabeur remains undefeated on grass: With the exit of world number one Iga Swiatek in the third round, the 27-year-old Tunisian took over as the highest-ranked player in the draw. Champion in Berlin two weeks ago, Jabeur is now 9-0 on grass this season. She didn’t drop a set en route to the quarter-finals.

“Hopefully I can continue the streak,” Jabeur said. “I love playing on grass. I love the connection between nature and me. Hopefully that can continue until the final.”

Ons Jabeur wins the photo of the month for June

Passing in the clutch: Mertens entered the fourth round after saving match points in the second round against Panna Udvardy. She played loose, positive tennis to oust 2018 champion Angelique Kerber in straight sets in the third round and looked set to be upset by Jabeur. She won their only previous meeting, a straight-set victory at the 2021 US Open.

The Tunisian earned the break in the opening set but Mertens’ consistency proved a difficult puzzle for Jabeur to solve all day. Jabeur led 4-2 in the first set only to see Mertens tie her up to level the set at 4-4. By the time the set reached the tie-break, it was Mertens who was steadily dictating from the baseline.

This constant aggression from the baseline earned Mertens a 6-3 lead in the tiebreak before Jabeur made a furious comeback. In all, Jabeur played five perfect points to save five set points. She closed the 60-minute set on her second set point, winning one of the game’s longest rallies – 16 shots – to take the tie-break 11-9.

“She’s a really great opponent,” Jabeur said. “It’s never easy to play her and I had to dig really deep in the tie-break. I couldn’t imagine myself playing three sets against her.”

The second set went the same way as the first. Again, Jabeur was granted an early break only for Mertens to collect him and stay level with world No.2. But on serve at 4-5, Mertens couldn’t get out of a 15-30 hole. On Jabeur’s first match point, Mertens scored his only double fault of the day to end the game after 1:46.

Jabeur aims high: Jabeur is the only remaining seed in her bottom half of the table, with no other players ranked in the Top 65.

“It’s not easy to play against anyone on grass, especially with my position, everyone wants to win,” Jabeur said. “I’m just very positive about what I want to do. I have my goals very high for this tournament, so I’m going to keep doing it. No matter who comes, I’m going to build the fight, I’m going to fight until at the end because I really want the title.”

Mertens on Jabeur’s title chances: “Certainly, I think she has a very good chance,” Mertens said. “I think she also won Berlin. Winning a grass-court tournament gives confidence for the next one. It’s very difficult to beat her. She has very good hands. Yeah, I think she has a chance.”

Next : Jabeur will face No. 66 Bouzkova, who is enjoying a fortnight at Wimbledon. The 23-year-old beat two seeds in No. 7 Danielle Collins and No. 28 Alison Riske and ended Bad Homburg champion Caroline Garcia’s run in the fourth round.

“I think it will be similar to today’s game,” Jabeur said. “I know I love the way she plays, Marie, really amazing to see her win. It’s going to be an uphill battle because I know she’s such a fighter. She’s everywhere, bringing every ball. It’s going to be delicate.”

It will be the first meeting between Jabeur and Bouzkova, who had never made it past the second round of a Grand Slam before last week. Jabeur will be playing in his third major quarter-final, having reached that stage at Wimbledon last summer and at the 2020 Australian Open.