New York | Jabeur battles past Bouzkova as Vondrousova dispatches Alexandrova under the lights

In Saturday’s night sessions, Ons Jabeur, the 5th seed, fought her way past Maria Bouzkova to keep her US Open hopes alive after a 2 hour 51 minute battle on Arthur Ashe Stadium, while Marketa Vondrousova swept aside Ekaterina Alexandrova In just 57 minutes in the last match of Day 6 on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

I felt really good. I was waiting the whole day, I didn't know what to expect. It's actually my first night session here and I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much. I'm very happy with my game, it's a lot of pressure and I didn't know how it's going to work. I'm just grateful to be here and play healthy again. I'm enjoying my time in New York. Marketa Vondrousova

Feeling ‘like a zombie’ due to fighting off the flu earlier in the week, Jabeur scraped by Bouzkova, the Czech No 6, in an error-filled match, 5-7 7-6(5) 6-3, under the lights.

“It’s a very tough match from both of us,” said Jabeur, who was the runner-up last year. “She didn’t want to stop. I tried my best today, and she’s a great player.”

The Tunisian fired off 56 winners as she came back from the dead to make the Last 16, where she will play China’s Zheng Qinwen, who beat Italian Lucia Bronzetti, 6-3 4-6 6-4, earlier in the day.

In the match of the day, Jabeur was the favourite with the packed crowd on Ashe, but Bouzkova, who suffered a physical injury in the second set, also earned herself some fans when she persevered to finish the encounter.

Jabeur had won their last contest, and, in just their second meeting, they started by taking measure of one another.

Known for her inventive style of play and trick shots, the No 5 seed showed her range, hitting drop-shots, angles, and lobs, which makes for great entertainment but also proved risky as Jabeur fell prone to errors.

Down 3-5, she already had made 15 miscues to her opponent’s 5, looking well on the way to conceding the first set, and although Jabeur rallied, Bouzkova took the first frame, 7-5.

In the second, the 29-year-old Tunisian cleaned up her act, and produced the excellence that earned her finalist status at the 2022 US Open, as well as at Wimbledon, both this year and last.

Jabeur was up a break at 5-4, when the physically-ailing Bouzkova limped to her chair, calling for an off-court medical timeout.

The Czech player returned, mobile but cautious, with a look of distress on her face, and while stumbling at times, and not trying to retrieve Jabeur’s drop-shots, Bouzkova managed to hold serve.

Then, unbelievably, Jabeur could find no way to exploit Bouzkova’s distress, and the second set went into a see-saw tiebreak before the Tunisian finally took it, 7 points to 5.

“At the end of the second set, I tried…to make her move as much as I can,” Jabeur said with a sympathetic smile. “I know that’s not nice.”

The decider proved to be all about heart, as Bouzkova, with a hitch in her step and a grimace on her face, gave it her all, and Jabeur’s game seemed to wax and wane, but the Tunisian managed to exploit the situation with her drop-shot.

To pre-empt them, Bouzkova started charging to the net in a brave, last-ditch, effort, but, with Jabeur serving at 5-3, and after the Czech saved 2 match points, the World No 5 managed to close it out.

“Man, it’s a very tough match!” said Jabeur in her on-court interview. “Huge respect for her, for sure.”

Jabeur, who at times was hunched over in clear discomfort, had somehow found new life in the second set breaker, and got the critical break in the 6th game of the decider when Bouzkova double-faulted before nodding solemnly as the Czech hit a shot into the net on match point, sealing the nearly 3-hour slugfest.

After her Round 2 win against the Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova, Jabeur had said: “I have a lot of respect for the Czech tennis school, in general. They really, really have amazing players.”

Safe to say that respect has only increased.

Jabeur expects a big challenge from her 4th-round opponent, Zheng, against whom she retired in their last meeting in Toronto in 2022.

“She kicked my ass,” said Jabeur. “Learned a lot. She has a very good forehand… It’s going to be a tough one, for sure.”

Marketa Vondrousova swept past Ekaterina Alexandrova in the last match of Day 6, and has dropped just 10 games at the US Open so far

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Later, over on Armstrong, Vondrousova continued her impressive run at the US Open, defeating Ekaterina Alexandrova, 6-2 6-1, on Saturday to storm into the Last 16 at Flushing Meadows for the first time in 5 years.

The Czech 9th seed, who made her Grand Slam break-through at the All England Club last month, has flown under the radar in New York, and came into the contest with her Russian opponent having dropped only 7 games.

In her first US Open night match, Vondrousova set the tone with 3 unreturned serves to hold from 15-30 in the opening game.

Although the 24-year-old surrendered her serve twice in the first set, she showed all her artistry to break Alexandrova 4 times, and wrapped up the opener easily, capitalising on a 45% first-serve percentage from the Russian.

The one-way traffic was even heavier in the second, as Alexandrova continued to look shaky on her delivery.

Vondrousova raced out to a 5-0 lead, facing little resistance, but, in a final stand, Alexandrova held for the first time in the match to stay alive and avoid the bagel, before getting to deuce as the left-handed Czech attempted to serve out the match.

There was no late come-back for the 22nd seed, though, with Vondrousova completing the victory in only 57 minutes when Alexandrova fired her backhand wide off a 4th un-returnable serve in the final game, which sealed the deal, sending the Czech back to Round 4 in New York for the first time since 2018.

Vondrousova missed just 3 returns in the match, winning 41 of the 44 points, and she delivered a serving master-class in set two as her power and accuracy improved, with just 8 of her 22 serves in the frame coming back.

“I felt really good,” said Vondrousova, who will meet American hope Peyton Stearns, the conqueror of Britain’s Katie Boulter, for a place in the quarter-finals. “I was waiting the whole day, I didn’t know what to expect.

“It’s actually my first night session here and I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much.

“I’m very happy with my game, it’s a lot of pressure and I didn’t know how it’s going to work. I’m just grateful to be here and play healthy again. I’m enjoying my time in New York.”

Vondrousova was the surprise champion at Wimbledon, where she became the first unseeded woman to claim the London title in the Open Era as the World No 42.

Entering New York inside the Top 10, she has handled the increased expectations with ease, and has been dominant in her 3 New York wins, dropping just 10 total games en route to the 4th round as she cruised past Han Na Lae and Martina Trevisan in the first two rounds.



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