World No.2 Ons Jabeur held off a strong challenge from 24th seed Elise Mertens to advance to her second straight Wimbledon quarterfinal, defeating the Belgian 7-6(9), 6-4 in the fourth round. Jabeur will face the Czech Republic's Marie Bouzkova for a spot in her first major semifinal.
Jabeur stays undefeated on grass: With World No.1 Iga Swiatek's exit in the third round, the 27-year-old Tunisian took up the torch as the highest-ranked player in the draw. A champion in Berlin two weeks ago, Jabeur is now 9-0 on grass this season. She has not lost a set en route to the quarterfinals.
"Hopefully I can continue the streak," Jabeur said. "I love playing on grass. I love the connection between nature and me. Hopefully it can continue to the final."
Coming through in the clutch: Mertens came into the fourth round having saved match points in the second round against Panna Udvardy. She played loose and positive tennis to oust 2018 champion Angelique Kerber in straight sets in the third round and looked primed for an upset over Jabeur. She won their only previous meeting, a straight-set win at the 2021 US Open.
The Tunisian earned the early break in the opening set but Mertens' consistency proved a tough puzzle for Jabeur to solve all day. Jabeur led 4-2 in the first set only to see Mertens peg her back to level the set at 4-4. By the time the set reached the tiebreak, it was Mertens who was regularly dictating from the baseline.
That steady aggression from the baseline earned Mertens a 6-3 lead in the tiebreak before Jabeur mounted a furious comeback. In all, Jabeur played five perfect points to save five set points. She closed out the 60-minute set on her second set point, winning one of the longest rallies of the match - 16 shots - to take the tiebreak 11-9.
"She's a great opponent, really," Jabeur said. "It's never easy to play her and I had to dig very deep in the tiebreak. I couldn't imagine myself playing three sets against her."
The second set played out similarly to the first. Again Jabeur earned an early break only for Mertens to claw it back and stay level with the World No.2. But serving at 4-5, Mertens could not dig herself out of a 15-30 hole. On Jabeur's first match point, Mertens hit her only double-fault of the day to end the match after 1 hour and 46 minutes.
Jabeur aiming high: Jabeur is the only seeded player remaining in her bottom half of the draw, with no other player ranked in the Top 65.
"Not easy to play anyone on grass, especially with my position, everybody wants to grab the win," Jabeur said. "I'm just very positive about what I want to do. I have my goals very high for this tournament, so I'm going to keep doing that. No matter who's coming, I'm going to build the fight, I'm going to fight till the end because I really want the title."
Mertens high on Jabeur's title chances: "Definitely, I think she has a very good chance," Mertens said. "I think she also won Berlin. Winning a grass court tournament gives confidence for the next one. It's very difficult to beat her. She has very good hands. Yeah, I think she has a chance."
Next up: Jabeur will face No.66 Bouzkova, who is enjoying a breakout fortnight at Wimbledon. The 23-year-old has defeated two seeds in No.7 Danielle Collins and No.28 Alison Riske and ended Bad Homburg champion Caroline Garcia's run in the fourth round.
"I think it will be similar as today's match," Jabeur said. "I know that I love how she plays, Marie, really amazing to see her winning. It's going to be a tough battle because I know she's such a fighter. She's everywhere, brings every ball. It's going to be tricky."
This will be the first meeting between Jabeur and Bouzkova, who had never progressed past the second round of a Slam before last week. Jabeur will be playing her third major quarterfinal, having reached this stage at Wimbledon last summer and the 2020 Australian Open.