Tennis-Jabeur casts spell over Muguruza to reach last 16

·3-min read

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) -Tunisian Ons Jabeur cast a spell over former champion Garbine Muguruza and dazzled the Centre Court crowd to reach the Wimbledon fourth round with a 5-7 6-3 6-2 victory on Friday.

Jabeur dipped into her box of tricks to outflank the powerful 11th seed who was slowly driven to distraction by an opponent who gave a masterclass in angles and spins.

The artful 26-year-old showed great resilience to fend off Muguruza's heavy hitting early on and eventually took control to become the first Arab woman to reach the last 16 at Wimbledon.

Jabeur, who last month also became the first Arab woman to win a WTA title when she triumphed on grass in Birmingham, will face 2020 French Open winner Iga Swiatek on Monday.

Muguruza, the 2017 champion, did not play a bad match and saved 24 break points, but ultimately she could not counter the cerebral tennis of her crafty opponent.

"I think grass helps her game. I feel like she's very comfy," Muguruza, who had won their only previous clash, said.

"She's a very talented player. She needs to be with confidence to be able to play her game, and right now she is."

Jabeur, once a keen soccer player, is already a household name back in Tunisia and her progress to the last 16 will create a huge buzz in a country not known for tennis success.

"It means a lot. Especially so many Arab people watching me and supporting me," she said. "But I don't want the journey to stop here. I want to continue. I'm doing amazing.

"Hopefully whoever is watching, I hope that so many younger generation are watching, and I can inspire them."

The Tunisian began nervously with a couple of double-faults to drop her opening service game but from then on she gave Muguruza a torrid time over the two hour 26 minute duel.

She pulled off a stunning shot around the net post in the second game, one for the show reel, but it was former world number one Muguruza whose clean power game just about held sway as she managed to take an absorbing opening set lasting an hour.

But the two-time Grand Slam champion never looked comfortable trying to solve the Jabeur puzzle and was continually wrong-footed by her wily opponent and will probably fall asleep later dreaming of chasing down drop shots.

From 3-3 in the second set Jabeur began to take control and there was an air of slight desperation about Muguruza as struggled to figure out what her opponent would do next.

Jabeur, the 21st seed, went on a 16-point winning spree as she forged ahead at the start of the deciding set.

Two service breaks put her 5-1 ahead and she served for the match at 5-2.

Nerves overwhelmed her before her first match point and she was physically sick at the back of the court, just below the Royal Box. She sliced a backhand long but gathered herself to seal a memorable win with a sensational forehand, her 44th winner in a superb performance.

"This is the best day of my career," Jabeur told an appreciative crowd who sat enthralled by a classic clash of styles.

"I was a bit nervous today. She plays unbelievable on grass, it was difficult in the first set but after that I stayed more calm. When I play loose and good everything gets better."

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)