Gutsy, Historic Win At Wimbledon By Jabeur

Ons Jabeur (photo: Wimbledon video)

LONDON/WASHINGTON, July 2, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Ons Jabeur was so nervous before her first match point in her Wimbledon Centre Court debut against the 2017 ladies’ champion Garbiñe Muguruza that she just went and kneeled down along the back wall and discretely vomited. At the Wimbledon Championships. On Centre Court. Witnessed by the Duchess of Cambridge, who was sitting in the Royal Box. It was that kind of a memorable match – and something the World No. 24 Jabeur could chuckle about during her on-court interview, when she said Wimbledon was “my favorite Centre Court, actually.”

Soon after her nervous incident that was captured by TV and seen worldwide, the No. 21 seed Jabeur converted her second match point with a nerveless, 17-shot rally that was culminated by her 44th winner of the afternoon as she beat the No. 11 seed Muruguza, 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, in two hours and 26 minutes Friday afternoon. Breaking down another barrier, Jabeur became the first Arab woman to reach the second week at the All England Club.

Throughout, Jabeur showed remarkable resilience and entertained the Centre Court audience. She won with power, with touch and with variety. There were the drop shots and slice backhands that Jabeur is famous for hitting – and she overcame several wobbles on the sometimes-slippery grass surface. The Tunisian hit six aces and 44 winners to 27 unforced errors, converted five of 29 break-point opportunities and outpointed Muguruza 116-104. The Spanish No. 1 finished with 32 winners, 26 unforced errors and was successful on only three of 12 break points. Both competitors played their hearts out.

“I had so many opportunities in this match that it’s a little disappointing from my side because I couldn’t convert them,” Muguruza said during her post-match press conference. “Especially, in the second set, I felt like I should have dominated more in these moments and take the advantage, and I couldn’t.”

Perhaps, the turning point during the match came when Jabeur came from 0-40 down to garner five straight points to win the second set and send it to a decider. Then, her 16th consecutive point put her in the lead in the final set 2-0 and 0-40 on Muguruza’s serve. The Spaniard would go on to save six break points and salvage the 14-point third game but, by then, Jabeur had planted to seeds that culminated in one of her greatest wins.

While Muguruza was attempting to advance to the fourth round for the first time since her Wimbledon title run in 2017 – and was the more experienced player in pressure matches – Jabeur has been among the WTA leaders match victories this season. Friday’s win was Jabeur’s 32nd, which ties her for first with Aryna Sabalenka.

“I think grass helps her game,” Muguruza said. “I feel like she’s very comfy. I saw she won a tournament two weeks ago. She’s a very talented player. She needs to be confident to be able to play her game, and right now she is.”

Asked during her televised post-match interview if this was the best day of her tennis career, Jabeur smiled and said “It is. … I’m not saying this so you guys come cheer for me in the next round but this is my favorite Centre Court in the world. I’m telling the truth, I swear. The energy is amazing. I’m so, so, so happy.”

During the interview, Jabeur gave props to her opponent. “[Muguruza] plays unbelievable on grass, everybody knows that. I lost against her last time, so this was kind of my revenge here. In a nice way.”

With her first WTA title won at the Birmingham, England, grass-court tune-up – in which she became the first Arab woman to win a WTA title – Jabeur is 9-1 in her last 10 matches on grass. Next, she will face World No. 9 Iga Swiatek on Manic Monday. Anything’s possible, as Jabeur continues to show the tennis world.

Manic Monday lineup taking shape

While there are still many familiar faces chasing after the men’s title such as eight-time champion Roger Federer, No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev and No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini, who all won on Thursday and will be in action Saturday – plus No. 1 seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic, who resumed his bid for a sixth Wimbledon title and 20th major overall on Friday by defeating 114th-ranked American Denis Kudla, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7), in two hours and 17 minutes, on the women’s side it’s a totally different story as eight of the Top 11 in the current WTA rankings are gone from the Wimbledon fortnight, either through loss, withdrawal or injury.

While No. 1 seed Ashleigh Barty will have to wait until Saturday when she faces No. 64 Katerina Siniakova to punch her ticket to Manic Monday, when all of the men’s and women’s round of 16 matches are played, three others wasted little precious time in advancing to the fourth round with impressive third-round victories.

First, No. 7 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland, who is quickly learning how to play effectively on grass, became the first player to advance to the fourth round as she beat No. 79 Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania in just 55 minutes, 6-1, 6-0, dropping just eight points on her serve while facing no break points. She has now reached the second week in six of the 10 Grand Slams she’s played in. Next, she will face Ons Jabeur.

“I feel like I’m playing better and better every match, and I’m actually getting more confidence because I have been on a grass court for some time now. … I just feel the surface much, much better than at the beginning of the tournament, and during [the] tournament in Eastbourne,” Swiatek said during press.

“It’s easier to implement all the tactics that I wasn’t able to implement when I wasn’t feeling comfortable. It’s just easier to lead for me and to be aggressive on court and stay focused all the time.”

Then, No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic reached her third straight Wimbledon second week with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over fellow Czech Tereza Martincova, ranked 87th, that started play on No. 2 Court. She hit seven aces and 30 winners, and converted four of 12 break points against Martincova, who earlier in the grass-court season enjoyed a pair of quarterfinal runs at Nottingham and Birmingham.

Meanwhile, No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus ended the six-match run 94th-ranked qualifier Maria Camila Osorio Serrano of Colombia, 6-0, 6-3, by hitting serving five aces and hitting 22 winners during their 75-minute meeting on No. 2 Court. In a battle of power versus touch, Sabalenka outpointed Osorio Serrano 67-49 to advance against No. 18 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, who eliminated 46th-ranked American Shelby Rogers, 6-1, 6-4, in just 65 minutes.

The 19-year-old Osorio Serrano – “Cami” to family and friends – had reached the third round with a win two days earlier against World No. 36 Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia, her best win by ranking of her career thus far, and she became the first Colombian woman to reach the third round at Wimbledon in 48 years.

For Sabalenka, she’s into the second week of Wimbledon for the first time. “It was tough, tough first set,” she said. “The second set also. It was not easy game against her. Really happy to win this match. Looking forward for the next week.”

Also, joining the round of 16 is the jubilant No. 66 Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland. She advanced in just 67 minutes with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over 82nd-ranked American Madison Brengle on No. 12 Court. Golubic hit 30 winners and has lost just five games in her last two matches, which began with a second-round win over Danielle Collins of the United States. Upon winning Friday, the 28-year-old Swiss jumped up and down with all of the excitement of a child on Christmas Day morning opening a new gift.

Russian men coming on strong

Meanwhile, the Russian men are enjoying a fine first week. No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev has been impressive through the first two rounds and has shown he loves playing on grass. On Friday, youth won out over experience as Andrey Rublev, the 23-year-old No. 5 seed, achieved his best result by making it the fourth round of Wimbledon for the first time with his 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 6-2 win over No. 26 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy, 11 years his senior. Although the Rublev-Fognini matchup is a familiar one – this was their eighth head-to-head – it was the first time at a Grand Slam and first on grass. Next, Rublev will face Hungary’s 48th-ranked Marton Fucsovics, who upset No. 9 seed Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, 6-3, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-4.

Also, No. 25 seed Karen Khachanov has settled in for a long run following his 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 win over American Frances Tiafoe in back of 13 aces and 28 winners. After upsetting World No. 4 and third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in the opening round, the No. 57 Tiafoe came out flat against Khachanov and did not get any break points against the Russian while committing 24unforced errors.

If Medvedev should beat 2017 Wimbledon gentlemen’s finalist Marin Cilic in their No. 1 Court battle on Saturday, it would be the first time in the Open Era (since 1968) that three Russians have advanced to the fourth round.

.. Don’t count out this Russian woman

Liudmila Samsonova of Russia is a 22-year-old wild card in the ladies’ singles draw, who has quietly but efficiently gone about her business. The 65th-ranked Samsonova, who is playing in her first Wimbledon, is one to keep an eye on. Nervous? “A lot!” she said during her on-court, post-match interview. Samsonova won her 10th consecutive match on grass by defeating American Sloane Stephens, 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, in two hours and a minute in a third-round match on No.1 Court – arguably her biggest win as a professional.

“I’m completely in love with this surface,” Samsonova said.

Samsonova began her winning ways when she strung together seven straight victories in Berlin last month that began in qualifying through winning the bett1Open title for her first WTA crown. She’s beaten some quality opponents with her massive groundstrokes during her triumphant run, including Madison Keys, Victoria Azarenka and Belinda Bencic in Berlin, and at Wimbledon, she has victories over Kaia Kanepi and Jessica Pegula – and now Stephens, whom she hit 31 winners against. Next, she will face No. 8 seed Karolina Pliskova, a former World No. 1.

While no woman has even won Wimbledon as a wild card, anything’s possible, right?

The British are coming, the British are coming

With three British men through to the third round for the first time since 1999 – two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray, British No. 1 Dan Evans and the consistent newcomer Cameron Norrie – two of them were in action in back-to-back Centre Court clashes on Friday.

First, the No. 22 seed Evans faced American #NextGenATP rising star and 50th-ranked Sebastian Korda and later, the 118th-ranked wild card Murray returned for his third evening prime time performance against No. 10 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada.

Korda played the role of spoiler by giving himself an early 21st birthday gift (he turns 21 on Monday) with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Evans in two hours and 25 minutes, in which he fired 13 aces and hit 50 winners to improve his 2021 record to 21-9.

Then, the World No. 12 Shapovalov ended the dramatic run of the 34-year-old Murray, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, in a coming of age victory, two hours and 17 minutes, that ended at 9:36 p.m. The 22-year-old Canadian hit his 13th ace – the last of his 44 winners – on match point to wrap up the victory and move into next week’s fourth round against No. 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

Murray left Centre Court to a well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd. Then, during his on-court interview, Shapovalov paid tribute to the British star.

“What he is doing nobody has ever done. … I told Andy at the net that he is my hero,” Shapovalov said.

On Saturday, the No. 29 seed Norrie – now the last British standing – will have a Centre Court date with Roger Federer just hours before England plays Ukraine in the UEFA European Championship.

Around the All England Club

• Men’s No. 17 seed Cristian Garin of Chile eliminated No. 107 Pedro Martinez of Spain, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 to advance against top seed Novak Djokovic. With his three wins this week at The Championships, Garin, who had never before won at Wimbledon, is into the fourth round of the second straight Grand Slam.

“It feels amazing [to reach the second week for the first time],” Garin said. “I didn’t play a grass touranment before Wimbledon, so I was a bit out of rhythm and without any matches on grass. … I didn’t expect to play the way that I’m playing, super solid and serving well, playing almost every game pretty solid. I’m so happy to be in the second week.”

• Men’s No. 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain hit 30 winners and is through to the second week after defeating Dominik Koepfer of Germany, 7-5, 6-1, 7-6 (4), where he awaits the winner of the Andy Murray-Denis Shapovalov match. The 62nd-ranked German hit 41 winners to 43 unforced errors during the two hour and 20-minute match on No. 2 Court.

• American Madison Keys hit 28 winners and earned her berth in the second week at Wimbledon with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 13 seed Elise Mertens of Belgium in an hour and 15 minutes. The No. 23 seed Keys converted four break points and outpointed her opponent 68-55. Next, she will face unseeded Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland in Monday’s round of 16.

“I am absolutely beyond happy,” Keys said during her on-court interview. “I think I just played a really great match. I think this is the first time I’ve ever won on this court.” Asked how she would celebrate making it into the second week, “eating candy and ice cream.” And if she can win another round to make it to the quarterfinals? “The biggest plate of ice cream.”

Friday’s Wimbledon results

Saturday’s Wimbledon order of play

The Duchess of Cambridge and the Hall of Famers

During her visit to the All England Club on Friday, Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge took time to visit with a trio of tennis Hall of Famers, Chris Evert and Pam Shriver, both broadcasting for ESPN, and Tracy Austin, who is broadcasting for the BBC.

By the numbers

With Novak Djokovic‘s 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7) victory over American Denis Kudla, he advanced to the fourth round at Wimbledon for the 13th rime, breaking a tie with Boris Becker for third-most appearances in the round of 16 at the All England Club.

Djokovic is also the first man to win at least 75 matches in all four Grand Slam tournaments.

“Quotable …”

• “I feel like Wimbledon, it’s a special place. It’s a special surface. I don’t know. It’s special atmosphere out here. I don’t know. I enjoy it like … nowhere else.

“Every match, it’s a new match. You never know what’s going to happen. You just need to bring your level on the court and fight for every point. This is what I’m doing on the court.”

– No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, who has advanced to the second week at Wimbledon for the first time.

• “A big achievement. I mean a year ago I was 220 in the world and now I’m here in the fourth round of Wimbledon. It’s incredible. I have my family to thank and my coaches and everyone around me.”

– Unseeded Sebastian Korda, ranked 50th, after winning his Wimbledon Centre Court debut.

Wimbledon champions now behind the microphone

During the Andy Murray-Denis Shapovalov third-round match on Centre Court Friday evening, a couple of Hall of Famers – both with plenty of Wimbledon cred – provided television commentary. John McEnroe, who won in 1981 and 1983-84, was on the call for ESPN’s broadcast in North America, and Boris Becker, who won Wimbledon titles in 1985, 1986 and 1989, was in the booth for the BBC.

What they’re sharing on social media

Maria Camila Osorio Serrano / I leave with a huge motivation to work again

English translation of Osorio Serrano’s tweet:

We continue that it is just beginning !!!🌱🤍
Today this tournament ends but what a magical week!@Wimbledon God is great and he has a purpose. I leave with a huge motivation to work again. Thank you immense for accompanying me on this adventure 🤍