MELBOURNE, Australia -- Ons Jabeur extended her tremendous run at the Australian Open on Sunday, as the Tunisian ousted No.27 seed Wang Qiang of China, 7-6(4), 6-1 to reach her maiden Grand Slam quarterfinal.
"Quarterfinals for the first time, trying to inspire many young generation back home either in Tunisia or the Arabic world, especially in Africa, which is amazing," Jabeur said after the match, in her post-match press conference. "It's not impossible. I made it. Like I said before, I've been practicing in Tunisia from the age of 3 through 16 or 17. I'm 100 percent Tunisian product."
World No.78 Jabeur had already become the first Arab woman to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam event with her win over former World No.1 Caroline Wozniacki - a match that sent the Danish star into retirement. Jabeur continued to make history as she cracked the last eight at a major event with her 77-minute victory over Wang.
"I'm receiving a lot of messages, especially people waking up at 5 a.m. in the morning to watch my match," said Jabeur. "I'm really proud. Hopefully they can still watch me and follow more, not just in the Grand Slam but the other tournaments. It will be really amazing. I hope really I can give a good example. Hopefully I can do more here. Hopefully can go really good."
Sunday's match turned the tables of their rivalry, as Wang had won both of their two previous meetings in routine straight sets, including a 6-0, 6-3 victory earlier this month in Shenzhen. This time around, though, Jabeur conquered her opponent, blasting 29 winners to Wang's 11, and winning a far higher percentage of second-serve points than the Chinese player could muster.
"I was actually not that nervous as the last matches," said Jabeur. "She's obviously better ranked than me. We played few times and she won, so less stress. But I tried to actually win this time because it was frustrating every time when she wins very easy."
"I'm doing amazing here," Jabeur continued. "I'm playing really good. One of my best matches in my career. So really I will hope I'm not stopping here. The journey continues. I'm looking really forward."
Wang, following up her sterling victory over seven-time Australian Open champion Serena Williams, more than doubled her winner count with 23 unforced errors on the day, and was unable to break Jabeur's serve in the second set after losing the tight opening frame, where she held one set point.
After an early exchange of breaks, it was Wang who got off to the hot start in the tilt, using her fierce forehand to control points, and slamming a crosscourt passing winner off of that wing to break for a 3-1 lead. After a routine hold for 4-1, the Chinese player had put herself ever closer to locking up a second consecutive major quarterfinal, following her run at the 2019 US Open.
However, Jabeur was determined to prolong the set, peppering Wang with her deft slice backhand until she was able to get her moments to strike. This paid dividends at 4-2, where Jabeur held three break points, and converted the third with a stirring backhand return winner to pull back on serve.
Nevertheless, Wang stayed out in front, and reached set point at 5-4 on the Tunisian's serve. But Jabeur fended that off with an error-forcing forehand, and the combatants continued to move forward into a decisive tiebreak.
The duo was deadlocked through 4-4 in the breaker before Jabeur took command, as a strong return set up a forehand winner to claim the first mini-break. The Tunisian slammed two more forehand winners on the next two points, and suddenly, Jabeur had won a set off of Wang for the very first time in their head-to-head.
After eking out the tight opening frame, the second set was one-way traffic, as Jabeur built a 5-0 lead. Wang was able to get on the board and avert the bagel, but 13 unforced errors by the Chinese No.1 outpaced her two winners in the second set.
By contrast, Jabeur was pristine during that timeframe, where she won 16 of her 20 service points and never faced a break point. Jabeur finished off the match with a sublime crosscourt winner, and the Tunisian moved another round further in her groundbreaking event.
Jabeur will now face No.14 seed Sofia Kenin of the United States in the quarterfinals, with a first Grand Slam semifinal spot on the line for each of them. Kenin eliminated her compatriot Coco Gauff shortly before Jabeur closed out Wang. Kenin has won both of their previous meetings at WTA-level.
"[Kenin is] such an amazing player," said Jabeur. "She improved a lot through the years. She's an amazing competitor. I saw her actually at the gym [after their matches ended]. 'Are you tired or are you sore?' She was laughing."
"She's a nice person outside the locker [room]," Jabeur continued. "It's nice to see someone like this. Hopefully it's going to be a good match."