Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur became the first Arab woman to reach the fourth round of the French Open as she beat eighth seed Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(7) 2-6 6-3 on Saturday.
The 30th seed displayed her trademark court craft to undermine Sabalenka’s raw power as she surpassed her previous best third round showing at Roland Garros in 2017.
“She’s such an aggressive player. But then I had to still do a lot of slices, drop shots, mix it up. I knew that could bother her a lot. I’m so happy that my game really worked today,” Jabeur, who won the Roland Garros junior title in 2011, said.
Sabalenka saved three set points at 5-6 in the first set, then led 5-1 in tiebreak, but a series of unforced errors allowed 26-year-old Jabeur to snatch it.
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, who became the first Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam quarter-final in Australia this year, re-grouped and forged 3-0 ahead in the deciding set.
She also had points for a 4-0 lead, but Belarusian Sabalenka upped her intensity and the decibels to keep herself 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, then sealing the win with a first serve.
Jabeur, who made her debut in the world’s top 50 this year, said the key to her win was staying calm and weathering the storm.
“Today was about staying calm, to be honest. She was screaming, like fighting every point, screaming in some very important points. Especially when she got back at 6-6,” the Tunisian said.
“Before, maybe I gave up too early. Even like today at 5-1 (down in the tiebreak), probably the old me would have given that up. I’m progressing, I’m growing up as a person.”