Ons Jabeur, the No. 21 seed known for her deep bag of tricks, was on the verge of a career first. Playing some of her peak tennis, the Tunisian had come back from a set down against Garbiñe Muguruza, the No. 11 seed and 2017 champion here at Wimbledon, to arrive at match point in their third-round matchup. There was one more task that needed taking care of, however. Jabeur walked slowly to the corner of the court, squatted low, and threw up. The ball person stepped away to give her space, then returned to their position. The nearest line judge stood unfazed. Professionalism isn’t dead at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.
Vomit and triumph can comfortably co-exist, and minutes later Jabeur polished off a 17-shot rally with a forehand winner to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 and become the first Arab woman ever to make the second week at Wimbledon. This win came just two weeks after her victory on the lawns at Birmingham, where she became the first Arab woman to win a WTA title. She has talked about wanting to inspire other women athletes in Africa and across the Arab world, and as inspiration goes, it doesn’t hurt to play ridiculously entertaining tennis that pairs top-of-the-line baseline power with ankle-breaking change-of-pace. There is no faster route to my tennis heart than chopping up a forehand slice this junky and hopping right into a down-the-line winner:
Naturally she had an easy time going around the net post, too:
Matched up against Muguruza’s more straightforward and punishing baseline game, Jabeur leaned into her characteristic style, dotting the court with several dozen drop shots, slicing her way up to the net, and ultimately amassing 44 winners to just 27 unforced errors. Constant pressure on return meant that Muguruza played a whole 120 points on serve versus Jabeur’s 100; it also earned Jabeur a startling 29 break points in the match, all but 5 of which Muguruza ably defended. Jabeur notched one of those breaks immediately in the deciding set, though, and never really looked back, even if she did, briefly, look down.