NEW YORK -- After losing the recent Wimbledon final, Ons Jabeur understandably had a difficult time gathering her emotions. On Tuesday at the US Open, it was clearly a physical struggle.
“I have the flu, so it wasn’t easy to play," Jabeur said after the match. "I also have a history of asthma. So it was a very, very tough day for me.
"I did consider retiring to be honest, so many times. But every point, I kept going. I wanted to push myself to my limits. I’m glad I was able to fight today.”
Despite an obviously depleted energy level, Jabeur somehow managed to finish only her third completed match in the past six weeks, defeating Camila Osorio 7-5, 7-6(4). At times, it was difficult to watch as Jabeur repeatedly stood hunched over, hand on knee, racquet supporting her ailing body.
The match ran 2 hours and 2 minutes -- but felt a lot longer. The two players embraced at net for more than 15 seconds.
Asked about the conversation at net, Jabeur said, “She asked me if I’m feeling OK, and I said, `Not really.’ She said I was such a warrior. I apologized for bringing the doctor on the court.
“But she took it really well and congratulated me on the win.”
It was a memorable display of courage, reminiscent of Pete Sampras’s heroic victory over Alex Corretja in the 1996 US Open quarterfinals. Sampras, physically ill on court, won a fifth-set tiebreaker that, after he went on to win the title, became the stuff of legend.
Next up for Jabeur: Czech Republic teenager Linda Noskova, a 6-2, 6-1 winner over Madison Brengle, on Thursday.
More from the US Open:
- Day 2 Preview: Venus takes center stage on Ashe
- After injury setbacks, Saville welcomes Swiatek challenge at US Open
- Why Bianca Andreescu's 2019 run was one for the history books
- Gauff gets the Obamas' stamp of approval after emotional win
- After a year of injury, Tomljanovic finally returns victorious
- Photos: Obamas, Sharapova take in the action
Two years ago, Jabeur played a nearly flawless match here against Osorio, dropping only a single game in their second-round encounter.
For 20 minutes on Tuesday, it looked like another rout in progress -- Jabeur was serving at 4-1 when Osorio suddenly flipped the script and took a 5-4 lead. That was when the trainer was called to attend to Jabeur, who seemed to be struggling mightily to catch a breath. But after a lengthy timeout, Jabeur returned with renewed strength. She broke Osorio for a 6-5 lead, and steeled herself to serve out the set from a 0-40 deficit.
Jabeur, looking weary, took the slow walk to the exit under the stands at Louis Armstrong Stadium, presumably, to regroup. Celebrated worldwide as “The Minister of Happiness,” Jabeur had difficulty disguising a grimace.
"I was more playing on her backhand," Jabeur said. "That helped me get more balls in. To be honest with you I thought, just keep the ball in and see what happens. Changing up the rhythm kind of helped me.”
The pattern continued in the second set. Breaks of serve came easily and leads were fleeting. Jabeur served for the match twice but Osorio forced her into a tightly-contested tiebreak. When an ambitious inside-in forehand sailed wide for the Colombian, Jabeur could finally see the finish line. She closed it out when Osorio’s final forehand found the net.
In another early match featuring a former US Open finalist, Ekaterina Alexandrova defeated Leylah Fernandez 7-6 (4), 5-7, 6-4.
A Cleveland finalist a week ago, Alexandrova won for the second time in three meetings against the 2021 US Open finalist. The No.22 seed won it with a lunging forehand volley, ending a scintillating match that ran 3 hours and 4 minutes.
Fernandez, down a set and a break at 1-3, did well to force a third set.
Alexandrova faces the winner of the later match between Elsa Jacquemot and Lesia Tsurenko on Thursday.