LEXINGTON, KY, USA - No.8 seed Ons Jabeur overcame a slow start to defeat qualifier Olga Govortsova and reach the quarterfinals at the Top Seed Open presented by Bluegrass Orthopaedics.
Jabeur, a player whose dynamic game relies on precise timing and shot selection, was struggling in the early exchanges against Govortsova’s powerful groundstrokes. But Jabeur recovered strongly after dropping the first set to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 in an hour and 50 minutes.
“My game was there, I know that I could mix it up a little bit and really bother her with my game, but I just didn’t find my rhythm in the beginning,” Jabeur told press afterward. “But I’m glad that I served good in the times that I needed to serve good - a couple of aces were really important for me to win my service games.
“She was trying to be more aggressive at the end, when I was winning 5-2. That was a good match, I’m really proud of myself that I pulled out the win.”
The Tunisian is through to her third quarterfinal of the year after starting the season with a historic run to the Australian Open final eight, backing it up in Doha before the WTA tour was put on pause. As a result, Jabeur comes into Lexington ranked at a career-high World No.39.
“I’m not the kind of player who can stay five months without playing and then find the rhythm very easily,” Jabeur admitted. “I’m usually slow to come back, but I took this opportunity to change that. Even mentally, more than on the court.
“Obviously I didn’t come back the same as when I stopped, but it’s good enough to start. I’m really proud that I pulled out these two matches here.”
Jabeur needed a few games to settle into the match, but her opponent Govortsova wasted no time in taking an early 2-0 lead. The 31-year-old Belarusian, who returned to the tour after maternity leave 2018, extended her lead as Jabeur struggled to find her rhythm, 4-0. The Tunisian wrangled one of the breaks back, but she couldn’t break through as Govortsova took the first set, 6-3.
It was the opposite story in the second set, as Jabeur raised her level. After exchanging breaks with Govortsova to take a 2-1 lead, Jabeur reeled off the next four of five games to wrap up the set 6-2.
Both players were dialed in during a tight third set, with nothing to separate them as they traded breaks 2-2. Jabeur continued her momentum as she broke away, reeling off four games in a row to serve for the match at 5-2. Govortsova made a final push as she broke her opponent to make it 5-4 and extend her stay in the match - but Jabeur slammed the door with more sharp shotmaking to take the victory after nearly two hours on court.
“At the beginning, I was trying to play more aggressive, but obviously I was taking more risk and missing,” Jabeur said. “I felt like I had the game to win today, but sometimes it was not right there. But I never thought that I could lose this match, somehow I believed in myself that I could come back and win it.”
Jabeur awaits the winner between 16-year-old Coco Gauff and No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka in the next round.
“I watched Coco’s first match, it was tough but she’s playing good especially in Grand Slams,” Jabeur assessed. “And Sabalenka, everyone knows that she’s really tough and she hits really hard shots. It’s going to be very tough to play her.
“Honestly, I hope they will fight for five hours! But let’s see, I’m ready for both of them.”