Top seed and local favourite Ons Jabeur had to swallow another disappointment of the season when she bowed out of the Jasmin Open Monastir in her homeland of Tunisia, ousted by young American Claire Liu on Friday, 6-4 4-6 6-4, in front of her home crowd.
It was the 22-year old’s first Top 10 win against a player who is ranked No 2 in the world.
For Jabeur, who had to swallow being the runner-up at both Wimbledon and the US Open earlier this year, it was a shock quarter-final exit, and a blow for organisers of the tournament in Monastir, a city on the central coast of Tunisia just 10 miles from Ksar Hellal where the 28-year local hero was born.
The Jasmin Open is the first in the country to host a WTA tour event, although Jabeur reached her first ITF final in Monsatir as a 15-year-old in 2009.
Only one other WTA event was held in Africa this year, another WTA 250 tournament in Morocco in May.
She looked to be cruising through the draw with wins over America’s Ann Li and Evgeniya Rodina from Russia in straight sets to make the Last 8, but Liu, who is ranked 73, threw a spanner in the works.
“It was a great match,” Jabeur said after beating Rodina on Thursday. “I’m just really happy I got it done in two sets and the crowd really helped today and hopefully, I continue in this way all the way to the final.
“They [the crowd] make it great for me. The crowd is amazing. The music is great. Thank you DJ.”
Jabeur, however, failed to fire any aces in the 2 hour 26 minute contest, and made 7 double-faults to produced just a 52 percent first-serve percentage while she was broken 6 times in 7 chances by Liu.
The win sends Liu to her 2nd semi-final of the season, where she will face Elise Mertens of Belgium, the 5th seed, who eliminated Japan’s Moyuka Uchijima, 6-0 3-6 6-4.
The other semi-final on Saturday will feature 2nd-seeded Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and No 3 seed Alizé Cornet of France.
Kudermetova swept past France’s Diane Parry, 6-4 6-1, in an hour 31 minutes while Cornet defeated Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek, 7-5 7-6(7), but needed 2 hours 21 minutes.
As for Jabeur, named the Arab Woman of the Year in 2019, she is the only Arab woman to reach a major final and win a WTA title.
In fact, she has won 3 career titles in total, including this year’s Madrid Open, and is the highest-ranked African player in history.
She will now focus on her first WTA Finals, which begin in Fort Worth, Texas, on 31 October.