PARIS, France - Tunisia's Ons Jabeur has advanced to the fourth round of the French Open for the first time in her career on Saturday thanks to a 7-6(7), 2-6, 6-3 win over No.8 seed Aryna Sabalenka.
Jabuer, the junior champion in Paris back in 2011, already had a professional milestone in Paris back in 2017 as a lucky loser, when she became the first Arab woman to reach the third round.
Three years later, she went one better on Court 14 in just over two hours, winning a rollercoaster clash of contrasting styles against a player who was also bidding to reach the second week on the terre battue for the first time.
"[It was a] tough, tough match. She really hits hard. She's such an aggressive player. Actually she didn't give me a lot of opportunities, especially in the second set," Jabeur said after the match.
"I mean, I was serving for the set, but I don't know what happened in there. Actually she was playing really good. To be honest, I had no regrets losing that game.
"But then I had to still do a lot of slices, drop shots, mix it up. I know that could bother her a lot. I'm so happy that that game really worked today."
Leading by a break twice in the opener, Jabeur ultimately snatched a one-set lead after having nearly fallen behind.
Unable to convert three set points from 40-0 ahead serving at 6-5, the Tunisian rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the ensuing tiebreak, finally moving ahead after six set points in all.
Undaunted, Sabalenka won 15 straight points in a staggering streak to begin the second set and never looked back from there to level the match, but clutch serving by the World No.35 was what carried her over the line in the decider.
"Today was [about] staying calm, to be honest. She was screaming, fighting every point... in some very important points. Especially when she got back at 6-6," Jabeur said. "For me, I wanted to stay calm because I had no reason to be angry. I think that helped me a lot today.
"In the other matches I just wanted to play my game, like really enjoy on clay. Today, obviously the match was even harder. Tomorrow, it's going to be also. I mean, after tomorrow is also going to be harder. I like how I play. I like how I mix it up. Obviously, I'm going to continue doing that. Hope the drop shot will always help me."
After taking a break lead at 2-0, Jabeur was afforded multiple opportunities in Sabalenka's service games to lengthen her lead - four break points passed her by at 3-0, and three match points slipped away at 5-2 - but she saved both break points against her in the set overall to advance to a meeting against either No.11 seed and former champion Garbiñe Muguruza, or American Danielle Collins.
Jabeur will bid for her second Grand Slam quarterfinal of the season in the match, having also done so at the Australian Open before being beating by eventual champion Sofia Kenin.
"I played against Muguruza in Hobart this year. It was kind of a tough match. If I play her, then I'm probably going for my revenge. Maybe playing on clay will be better for me. I like the way I'm playing right now, mix it up, doing all the stuff I want to do.
"Collins, I never played against her. She's a tough player. Let's see. I hope they play for five hours and get tired, and I'm going to be relaxing right now."