Wimbledon: Arab icon Ons Jabeur keeps Grand Slam dream alive

The Tunisian targets a place in the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time

Ons Jabeur celebrates defeating Elise Mertens on Sunday. (AP)
Ons Jabeur celebrates defeating Elise Mertens on Sunday. (AP)


Published: Mon 4 Jul 2022, 1:24 AM

Ons Jabeur’s hopes of becoming the first Arab to win a Grand Slam gathered momentum on Sunday as she edged out Belgian Elise Mertens 7-6(9) 6-4 in a topsy-turvy encounter to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the second year running.

The second-ranked Tunisian, the only seed left in the bottom half of the women’s draw, has been the form player over the opening week of the grasscourt championships as she reached the last eight without dropping a set.

Mertens, however, was no pushover during the contest as she earned five set points during a marathon first-set tiebreak.

But once Jabeur produced the firepower to wriggle out of trouble, she raised her game in the second set and wrapped up the win when Mertens surrendered with a double fault.

The 27-year-old Jabeur will next meet 66th-ranked Czech challenger Marie Bouzkova as the Tunisian targets a place in the semifinals of a Grand Slam for the first time.

Earlier, Tatjana Maria pulled off another upset at Wimbledon to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the age of 34 after beating Jelena Ostapenko on Sunday.

She’ll face not another high-seeded opponent but 22-year-old Jule Niemeier, who is making her All England Club debut, in an all-German showdown for a place in the semifinals.

Heading into the second week at Wimbledon, only two of the top 15 seeds remain in the women’s draw, which has just one Grand Slam champion — Simona Halep — left.

Maria eliminated 2017 French Open champion Ostapenko 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 on No. 1 Court in the fourth round after saving two match points in the second set against her 12th-seeded opponent.

Top-ranked Iga Swiatek is also out of the picture, the two-time French Open champion having lost to Alize Cornet of France in straight sets on Saturday.

Halep is the last Grand Slam champion standing on the women’s side. The 16th-seeded Romanian won at Wimbledon in 2019 and at the French Open the year before that. She faces fourth-seeded Paula Badosa in the fourth round on Monday.

In the men’s draw, Jannik Sinner beat fifth-seeded Carlos Alcaraz 6-1, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 6-3 on Centre Court. The 10th-seeded Italian will play either three-time defending champion Novak Djokovic or Tim van Rijthoven for a spot in the semifinals.

“For me, I didn’t expect it because I wasn’t playing so well on grass,” Sinner said of reaching first Wimbledon quarterfinal.

Two American men were eliminated. David Goffin of Belgium defeated 23rd-seeded Frances Tiafoe 7-6 (3), 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 to set up a quarterfinal match against ninth-seeded Cameron Norrie, who advanced with a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 victory over Tommy Paul.

The 97th-ranked Niemeier advanced by beating Heather Watson 6-2, 6-4 on Centre Court in just her second Grand Slam tournament. The German had eliminated second-seeded Anett Kontaveit in the second round.

Shortly before Roger Federer and other greats took part in a ceremony marking the centenary of Centre Court, Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal by beating Caroline Garcia of France 7-5, 6-2 as the traditional day of rest on the middle Sunday at the All England Club is no more.

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