No.4 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia pulled off a come-from-behind victory in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open, defeating Polish lucky loser Magdalena Frech 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 on Stadium 1 on Saturday night.
Here are some takeaways from Jabeur's comeback (in more ways than one):
Happy return: Saturday marked Jabeur’s first match since a second-round loss to Marketa Vondrousova at the Australian Open in January. Jabeur, the most accomplished Arab player of the Open Era, had to miss the entire Middle East swing after undergoing minor knee surgery.
Following her first-round bye as a seeded player, Jabeur hit the court again for her first meeting with World No.106 Frech. Jabeur had to work her way back into action, battling back from a set down before garnering the victory after 1 hour and 43 minutes of play.
"I'm an athlete and it's tough to stay out of competition for a long time," Jabeur said after her win. "I was missing to be on the court. ... I was like, 'OK, I'm going to go and get prepared, even here and Miami, and see what's gonna happen.'"
Improving form: Jabeur’s layoff did not diminish her all-court guile, with drop shots and slices still at her disposal. However, in the opening set, she was undone by 18 unforced errors, outpacing her 12 winners.
Serving down 5-4, Jabeur let a 40-0 lead slip away, and she double-faulted to give Frech a set point. There, a long backhand miscue by Jabeur ceded the one-set lead to Frech.
But Jabeur methodically worked her way back into form as the match progressed. After Jabeur held serve at love twice in a row to reach 4-4 in the second set, the Tunisian took her chance, forcing errors with aggressive forehands to break Frech for 5-4.
With that wing firing again, Jabeur used another error-forcing forehand to convert her first set point in the following game. From there, Jabeur rediscovered her magic in full as she eased through the third set.
"I just told myself to accept what's happening, to fight through it, and to just see how it goes," Jabeur said, thinking back to her one-set deficit. "I'm sure it will get better and better every match."
Frech won a set against Top 10 opposition for the first time in her career, but she could not hold onto her advantage and fell to 0-4 against players ranked inside that echelon.
Familiar foe awaits: Jabeur, an Indian Wells semifinalist in 2021, now has a chance to exact some revenge in the third round, where she will face the most recent player to beat her in Marketa Vondrousova.
Despite the loss at the Australian Open, Jabeur still holds a slim 3-2 lead in her head-to-head with Czech left-hander Vondrousova. But Vondrousova, the 2019 Roland Garros runner-up and a former World No.14, brings strong form into their latest match.
This week, Vondrousova beat Rebecca Marino of Canada 6-2, 6-2 in the first round, and she followed that win up with a 6-1, 6-1 dismantling of her countrywoman Marie Bouzkova, the No.28 seed, in the second round on Saturday.
"She's playing good," Jabeur said, looking ahead to Vondrousova. "I know how much she loves to play on this surface, so it's gonna be another challenge for me, for sure. I saw that she was also playing good in Dubai, so let's see. For me, honestly I have nothing to lose. I'm gonna try my best to beat her."