Jabeur keeps Arab hopes of a first Grand Slam final alive

Another win sends the 27-year-old into the second week with the top seed Swiatek knocked out

The newly elevated favourite for the women’s title next weekend made her way, unsteadily at first but ultimately convincingly into the second week at Wimbledon.

World number two Ons Jabeur, hoping to become the first African player to win a Grand Slam title, beat Belgian Elise Mertens 7-6 (11-9), 6-4 in a little under two hours.

After world number one Iga Swiatek was surprisingly beaten on Saturday, Jabeur now steps into pole position to make it through this week and also become the first Arab player to make it to a Grand Slam final.

“It’s never easy to play her. I had to dig very deep in the tiebreak,” said the Tunisian player. “I couldn’t imagine three sets with her. I always have fun on grass. I love playing on grass. Hopefully it will continue this way for me all the way to the final.”

An evangelist for the game, Jabeur once again challenged others from the continent of Africa to follow her example and urged players to stop making excuses.

“I want to see more players here not from my country but the African continent,” she said in her interview on Centre Court.

”I want them to believe more in themselves. I don’t come from a rich family. You just [have] got to stop looking for excuses and go for it.”

Again showing her varied game, Jabeur faced an obdurate opponent in Mertens, who was fast around the court and confidently played from the baseline with hard and accurate hitting. The pair could not be separated in the first set which went to a tiebreak, Jabeur narrowly eking it out 11-9 to take an important advantage.

The second set was more straight forward as Jabeur got onto the Mertern serve and began to return with greater consistency and one break of service had the Belgian serving to stay in the fourth round. Nerves then appeared to come into play and on match point Mertens served up a double fault to close the evening.

Earlier in the day the championship of Britain’s Heather Watson came to a close at the hands of a talented young German player, Jule Niemeier 6-2, 6-4 in a match played directly after the Centre Court 100 year celebration.

Watson never really threatened Niemeier, who coasted to the first set before finishing the match in just 77 minutes. Watson was the last British woman in the singles draw.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times