PARIS, France - Tunisian star Ons Jabeur made her career breakthrough Wednesday evening, becoming the first Arab woman to reach the third round of a Grand Slam singles tournament by dispatching reigning BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global champion Dominika Cibulkova, 6-4, 6-3.
"I'm really happy," she told press after the match. "I played really good from the beginning of the year, and I don't see why I should not continue doing my best. I have been working very hard, and it's time to make the work on the court and prove that I can be one of the best."
The 2011 French Open junior champion also became the first lucky loser to reach the third round of Roland Garros since Gloria Pizzichini pulled off the feat in 1996.
"I forgot already about being a lucky loser!"
Jabeur was nearly out of the tournament when she lost a three-setter to Miyu Kato in the final round of qualifying, but has made the most of her second chance for Grand Slam glory. She kicked off the fortnight with a win over Ana Bodgan, not only winning her first main draw match at a major but also setting up a second round encounter with a struggling Cibulkova, who came to Paris without winning back-to-back matches on red clay.
Still, the Slovak appeared imperious in her first round against Lara Arruabarrena, and was on track for a break in the opening set before Jabeur went on a tear, winning the final three games to put herself six games from the beggest win of her career.
"It was no pressure for me. Every time I play a player, like, better ranked than me, especially Top 10, there is no pressure. I like to show myself and show my dropshots.
"So it was unbelievable match for me. I think I played really good, and I made the necessary shots in this match."
Falling behind a break in the second set, Jabeur battled back to win the final five games and clinch the win after 85 minutes on Court Suzanne Lenglen.
"During the first set, I was really well-focused. I didn't know what the score was like. For me what was very important is to have a winning serve, to keep my focus. And after winning the first set I thought, 'Hang on, hang on to it.'
"Then when she was up 3-1, I thought, 'Be careful, she shouldn't win her serve right now. I have to do better and more.' I broke her. Then after this, I thought, 'She's losing her confidence. This is when you have to put more pressure.'"
The 22-year-old showed impeccable touch throughout, hitting plenty of drop shots to add up to 30 winners and just 17 unforced errors and broke serve four times to book a third round clash with 2015 semifinalist Timea Bacsinszky.
"Dropshots are part of my game. Sometimes I don't want to do it but just my hand go like this. I cannot control it.
"But it's amazing today because even when I made the return on when I was winning in 3-3 or 40-15 and I just made like this, and it went really good dropshot. Every time it goes good, I have more confidence to do it again."
Bacsinszky has been even more emphatic thus far at the French, dropping just two games against American Madison Brengle to put herself one win away from a third straight stint in the second week.
"I impressed myself as well a little bit today, as well," she said of her form. "I was kind of anxious, because I saw the result of my opponent. She had an amazing winning streak on clay, even if American clay is not exactly the same as this.
"Still, it's pretty impressive to win two tournaments in a row no matter the level. I really respect that. When she beat Goerges, I was thinking, 'Wow, Goerges is more of a clay-court player. I would have thought Goerges would have win the match. I was really aware then, that she could play very good on clay.
"I did not underestimate her at all, and I just started with the tactic that I had. For ten games in a row I think it worked just fine. At the end, I just played a really great game."