At the Viking Classic Birmingham on Thursday, No 2 seed Ons Jabeur withstood an onslaught from Canadian teenager Leylah Annie Fernandez, while Daria Kasatkina, the 4th seed, and Anastasia Potapova also advanced, but 5th-seeded Jelena Ostapenko was outrun by Tereza Martincova.
She was much better than me at my age. She’s really humble and is part of the exciting young generation who are coming through at the moment and I really see a big future for her. Ons Jabeur
Jabeur reached the quarter-finals after being put through her paces by Fernandez in their round-of-16 clash, with the Tunisian eventually prevailing 6-4 3-6 7-6(3) in 2 hours 5 minutes.
The World No 24 broke Fernandez’s serve 3 times in the match, but was also broken by the same number, and finished with 101 points to the Canadian’s 98.
“She’s a tough player, and is going to be a great player one day – it was a great battle,” said Jabeur. “I was so angry because I had a lot of opportunities on her serve, but I couldn’t break her, and she really played unbelievably.
“She is left-handed, which is always tough to face, but she’s really aggressive and she plays really fast. She’s always ready for what you’re going to throw at her.
“She was much better than me at my age. She’s really humble and is part of the exciting young generation who are coming through at the moment and I really see a big future for her.”
The Tunisian was reliant on a deciding-set tiebreak to overcome her 18-year-old opponent, who is ranked 66.
Jabeur is fresh off a second straight 4th-round appearance at Roland Garros, but has tended to be less effective on grass, having won just one match at Wimbledon in 3 main-draw attempts.
This is Jabeur’s third quarter-final this season after the Volvo Car Open and MUSC Health Women’s Open, both of which were played in Charleston.
The Tunisian will next face former junior Wimbledon champion Potapova, who avenged a Madrid qualifying defeat to France’s Kristina Mladenovic, 6-3, 6-3, to reach her first quarter-final since Dubai back in March.
The Russian saved a match point in her previous clash with Nina Stojanovic earlier in the week and, against Jabeur whom she has never faced in singles, she is aiming to reach her first WTA semi-final since the summer of 2019.
Potapova won around 67% of her first-serve points as compared to Mladenovic winning 51%, and she also won a relatively better margin of points on her second delivery, with 65% to t50%.
The Russian saved 4 of the 5 break points she faced while converting 3 of the 5 break points that came in her way, Potapova, who is 82, finishing with 62 points to the Frenchwoman’s 44.
In the top half of the draw, Daria Kasatkina reached the last eight after posting a 6-2 7-5 win over Marta Kostyuk from the Ukraine after an hour and 23 minutes.
This was Kasatkina’s first win in 3 meetings against the Ukrainian, and she broke Kostyuk 6 times in the match, while saving 8 of the 11 break points she faced to make it through.
Kasatkina’s quarter-final opponent at the Viking Classic will be the Czech Republic’s Tereza Martincova, who upset 5th seed Jelena Ostapenko, 7-6(4) 4-6 6-2, in 2 hours 21 minutes.
It was a surprise defeat for Ostapenko at the hands of the World No 90, who also reached the quarter-finals in Nottingham last week.
Attention now turns to Heather Watson’s quarter-final encounter with Donna Vekic on Friday, with the British No 2 poised to become only the third British player ever to reach the last four in Birmingham. Anne Hobbs having reached the semi-finals in 1984 and Jo Durie also getting there in 1992.
Watson, who hails from Guernsey and is now based in London, has played Vekic twice before and earned a win over the accomplished Croatian at their last meeting in Hobart in 2018, but they have never played on grass.
Vekic, the No 3 seed, is something of an anglophile, having trained in the UK during the early years of her career, and her record suggests that she enjoys a British grass court beneath her feet.
She was runner-up to Daniela Hantuchova in Birmingham in 2013, when she was just 17, and went on to win the 2017 Nottingham title and was also the runner-up in Nottingham in 2019.
Qualifier Coco Vandeweghe opens proceedings on the Ann Jones Centre Court when she faces Marie Bouzkova, with 4th seed Kasatkina taking on another qualifier Martincova in the second match of the day.
Popular Jabeur then plays Potapova before Watson and Vekic take to the court for the final match of the day.