Ons Jabeur came ever so close to becoming the first Arab woman in history to reach the third round at Wimbledon but squandered a match point and a 5-2 lead in the third set to fall 5-7, 6-4, 9-7 to Katerina Siniakova on Thursday.
Jabeur held match point on Siniakova’s serve, and served for the match herself, but a dramatic ending to the match saw the Czech world No. 42 ultimately get the win, on her third attempt to serve out the match.
“It was a tough one, very tough. This kind of loss is very painful,” Jabeur told Sport360 after the match.
“But she’s a good player, she was there in the important points. Unfortunately maybe I don’t have enough experience to hold enough my serve. It was the key, and maybe other stuff.
“Because I was fighting back, also breaking her serve after. The second set was also a little bit tough. I felt a little bit tired but then I came back much better at the end. I have to absorb it better this loss and then maybe something better will come after, at the end of the season.”
The 23-year-old Jabeur, whose best Grand Slam result was making the third round last year at the French Open, dropped serve seven times from eight break points faced against Siniakova.
She had momentum on her side when she went up a break in the deciding set, but couldn’t close it out.
“When you say 5-2, it was just one break up, I know it’s three games but two were on her serve. She acted differently, she wasn’t crying, she was loose, she was hitting all the balls much better,” said Jabeur.
“Maybe if she started like stressing out more I would have won the game but she started playing looser and much better. I should have won my serve, I have to really work on much, much more. I’m working on it, but these kind of matches and these kind of situations I need it much more.
“It was better at the end of the [Viktorija] Golubic match [in the first round], when I had to win my serve I did win it. I just have to learn from these mistakes.”
Jabeur next heads to Budapest, where she’ll play a $100k ITF clay tournament next week in an effort to make the cut for the US Open main draw.
On her part, Siniakova has a quick turnaround after playing singles (postponed from its initial Wednesday scheduling) and doubles on Thursday, and now has to return to the court at 11:30am on Friday for her third round against Italian Camila Giorgi.
Siniakova has already spent seven hours and 18 minutes on court so far this Wimbledon, five hours and 29 minutes of which were in singles. She beat CoCo Vandeweghe 6-7 (3), 6-3, 8-6 in the first round before a similar battle with Jabeur.
“I don’t know how [I’ve pulled those wins off] but I can say I’m a big fighter and think I can now have confidence,” said Siniakova. “I just knew that I could do it, and I was fighting every point, it’s grass and anything can happen. I knew that last match I did it so I was just ‘okay, it’s just one break, why can’t you do it?’
“I think we both played pretty well and it was a pretty close match.”
Siniakova admits she was surprised by the scheduling when she realised she was due back on court the next morning at 11:30 am against Giorgi.
“I need to be ready, I’ll try to do my best. I am a little bit surprised they put me first match so I think I will ask why. Because I was playing singles and doubles, if it was just singles okay, put me first, but I’m a little bit surprised. If schedule is out they cannot change it but anyway I would like to talk to them about why they did it because I think now we are not in rush, but I will try to do my best to be ready and show my best,” said the 22-year-old Siniakova.
Denis Shapovalov joined the long list of seeds to exit Wimbledon early this fortnight as he fell 0-6, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(3) to quirky Frenchman Benoit Paire.
The 19-year-old Shapovalov, seeded 26 at the All England Club, rued his missed opportunities, as he let the momentum he had from serving up a bagel in the opening set slip away.
“It was too good. He played a very good match and I didn’t play so well today. He deserved to win clearly today,” said the Canadian teen. “I had all the momentum after the first set, and I blew that. After that, he played really well and I wasn’t able to play well.”
“Obviously I wasn’t able to sustain my level today. Missing a lot of first serves. It’s probably the big key of it, but, you know, I just have to look over the match again and just do some brainstorming, find out why this kind of thing keeps happening.
“It was kind of the same story in the French Open. I had a lot of momentum going my way, and then all of a sudden it just slipped away from me. Yeah, it’s a little bit disappointing. I didn’t have a good grass court season. I got some tough draws. Wasn’t able to play my best tennis today, and, yeah, we’ll just have to move on from it and just learn from it.”
The 47th-ranked Paire, who made the fourth round at Wimbledon last year, survived 37 winners off the Shapovalov racquet and won 81 per cent of his first-serve points, to advance and set up a third round against Juan Martin del Potro, who defeated Feliciano Lopez 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 on Thursday.
“Benoit is a tricky player. He has too much talent,” said Del Potro of his next opponent, Paire.
“He plays all the shots on court. He can play drop shots, serves and volleys, can play flat with forehands and backhands. Nobody know who’s going to play.
“But Benoit also is a great player on grass. In the third round everything could happen. I will try to play even better than today.”
The All England Club initially started as a croquet club so the Wimbledon crew decided to set up a croquet challenge for the tennis stars there ahead of the tournament.
Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Grigor Dimitrov, Kyle Edmund, Simona Halep and Garbine Muguruza were among the players to try their luck at croquet.
Find out who succeeded in this challenge.
* Video courtesy of Wimbledon