Marketa Vondrousova took a significant step in her comeback from injury, upsetting No.2 seed Ons Jabeur 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 on Thursday to advance to the third round of the Australian Open.
The 23-year-old Czech has been beset by wrist issues over the years. She was sidelined for six months just after reaching her first major final at Roland Garros 2019, and then for another six months last year as she recovered from surgery.
But Vondrousova hit the ground running at the end of 2022, defeating Danielle Collins in Billie Jean King Cup action. Despite her No.86 ranking, she was a significant unseeded threat in the Australian Open draw.
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Jabeur had managed to defeat Tamara Zidansek in three sets in her opener despite racking up 49 unforced errors, but could not survive a tally of 50 against a focused Vondrousova. The latter raced out of the blocks, winning 12 of the first 15 points and wrapping up the first set in 24 minutes.
The matchup between two of the tour's most notable finesse players and former Grand Slam finalists came alive as Jabeur responded well in the second set. The pair combined for 39 drop shots and 16 lobs between them.
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Still struggling with consistency as she saw a 4-1 lead pegged back to 5-5, the Tunisian managed to keep her nose in front to level the match.
Markéta's moment!— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 19, 2023
The Czech ousts Ons Jabeur in three, 6-1 5-7 6-1
This crazy, wild, wonderful day just keeps on keeping on.#AusOpen • #AO2023 pic.twitter.com/tlUT024qeW
However, like the opening frame, Vondrousova tightened up her game and ran everything down in the third. Jabeur repeatedly found the net with her groundstrokes when facing break points. Vondrousova was unable to serve the match out at 5-0 but sealed her second match point in the subsequent game as another Jabeur forehand sailed long.
Afterward, Jabeur delivered a quick written statement to the media.
"I had a difficult time breathing. Not sure what's happening. Marketa played a good match and deserved to win. I will do my best to come back stronger."
The result was Vondrousova's fourth victory over a No.2-ranked opponent following her wins over Simona Halep at Indian Wells and Rome 2019, and over Naomi Osaka at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021. It was also her first completed win over Jabeur in five meetings.
Vondrousova will next face 17-year-old compatriot Linda Fruhvirtova, the youngest player left in the draw.