Ons Jabeur has already had numerous milestones during her breakthrough 2021 season, and now with her victory in the BNP Paribas Open quarterfinals Thursday, the Tunisian’s first trip into the Top 10 of the WTA singles rankings is assured.
The No.12 seed Jabeur beat 18th-seeded Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 7-5, 6-3 to reach the semifinals in Indian Wells, guaranteeing herself a spot in the world’s Top 10 in Monday’s upcoming singles rankings. She will be the first Arab to ever reach the Top 10 of either the WTA or ATP singles rankings.
Jabeur had a chance to make her Top 10 debut with a loss as well, pending other results in the last few days of the BNP Paribas Open. But Jabeur removing any uncertainty by defeating Kontaveit in 86 minutes.
By cracking the final four in the California desert, Jabeur is into the semifinals of a WTA 1000 event for the first time in her career. Her three previous appearances in a WTA 1000 quarterfinal ended in defeat.
Words from Ons: "Honestly a great match, great fight," Jabeur said in her post-match press conference. "Always tough to play against Anett. I tried to play my game little bit, but she knows me so well. It was kind of tough to kind of execute those dropshots.
"I'm pretty glad that I stayed calm when I needed to be. It was very stressful at the end. But I'm glad that I got the win and looking forward to play. Why not get the title here?
"Top 10 I know is the beginning. I know I deserve this place from a long time since I was playing well. But I want to prove that I deserve to be here, I deserve to be one of the Top 10 players.
"There is a lot of things that I need to improve. I'm very happy, a lot of emotions right now, but I'm still in competition so I'm trying to calm down and not overthink about Top 10. Probably will celebrate after the tournament. I just believed in myself, I worked hard, and this is just the beginning of great things."
Fast facts: Jabeur’s fortnight in Indian Wells is yet another addition to her outstanding season, where she became the first Arab woman to win a WTA singles title in Birmingham. Jabeur is currently the WTA leader in match-wins for 2021. Her victory over Kontaveit was her 48th of the year.
Earlier this season, Jabeur took a 2-1 lead in her head-to-head series against Kontaveit, when they battled to 7-5 in the third set in the first round of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Kontaveit, though, had been on a tear since that loss. The Estonian had won 16 of her 17 matches between that clash with Jabeur and Thursday’s rematch, which included her second and third WTA singles titles of her career, in Cleveland and Ostrava.
But once again, Kontaveit could not get past the surging Jabeur during what has proved to be a purple patch for both players. Jabeur was more successful behind her second serve in this latest tilt, winning 62 percent of those points to Kontaveit's 45 percent. That helped Jabeur convert five of her 12 break points.
With her results in Indian Wells, Jabeur is aiming to become one of the eight players to qualify for the Akron WTA Finals in Guadalajara. Currently No.8 in the Porsche Race to the Finals, Jabeur is eyeing a spot in the year-ending championships for the first time in her career.
Key moments: Strong play from the forehand side propelled Jabeur to an early 4-1 lead, but Kontaveit stayed sturdy, fending off three break points to prevent Jabeur from taking a 5-2 lead. Kontaveit stymied Jabeur when the Tunisian served for the set at 5-4, using a sterling return to reach break point, then taking advantage of a dropshot misfire to pull back level at 5-5.
Jabeur, though, did not flinch and stayed aggressive in the next game, pounding a forehand winner down the line to break Kontaveit once more for a 6-5 lead. Serving for the set for a second time, Jabeur would not be denied again, and she briskly held on for the one-set advantage.
Jabeur took the lead for good by breaking Kontaveit at love to lead 4-3 in the second set. Kontaveit nearly got the break right back, but Jabeur fended off two break points to consolidate her lead for 5-3. The Tunisian closed out the win with another break for good measure, collecting the last four games of the encounter to notch another milestone win.