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Ons Jabeur beats Elise Mertens, returns to Wimbledon quarters

7/3/2022 4:37:36 PM EST

Third-seeded Ons Jabeur has reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals for the second straight year after posting a 7-6 (9), 6-4 victory over 24th-seeded Elise Mertens of Belgium on Sunday.

Mertens had five set points during the first-set tiebreaker and Jabeur fought them all off en route to improving to 9-0 on grass this season.

"Hopefully I can continue the streak," Jabeur said during her on-court interview. "I love playing on grass. I love the connection between nature and me. Hopefully it can continue to the final."

The Tunisian had 33 winners against 34 unforced errors while earning a quarterfinal date with the Czech Republic's Marie Bouzkova, who advanced with a 7-5, 6-2 win over France's Caroline Garcia.

The battle with Mertens was tough for Jabeur. Mertens is often like a pitch-back and hits nearly every ball back to the opponent no matter how much running she is required to do.

"She's a great opponent. It's never easy to play her," Jabeur said. "I had to dig very deep into that tiebreak. I couldn't imagine myself playing three sets against her."

Mertens had 15 winners and 24 unforced errors.

Tatjana Maria's amazing journey also continued as the German upset No. 12 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.

The 34-year-old mother of two daughters -- one born in 2013, the other in 2021 -- returned to the sport from her second maternity leave less than a year ago. She is ranked just No. 103 in the world and had never advanced past the second round in her previous 34 Grand Slam appearances.

"There's always the belief that I can do it," Maria said. "I mean, that's why I came back after the first (maternity leave). It's why I came back after the second one. If not, if I don't believe I can do these things, then I would not be here.

"So there's always this believing and keep going and improving and trying my best at the end. It's also really hard work. It's not coming from nowhere, let's say. We are outside on the court every day."

Maria served nine aces and committed just 15 unforced errors to Ostapenko's 57. Ostapenko had a 52-23 edge in winners.

Maria will next face German compatriot Jule Niemeier, who posted a solid 6-2, 6-4 win over Great Britain's Heather Watson.

Niemeier had a 22-13 edge in winners. Both players committed 17 unforced errors.

Niemeier, ranked 97th in the world, didn't even qualify for Wimbledon last year.

"I'm speechless. It just feels not real," the 22-year-old Niemeier said. "I'm just so happy. ... It has been a great journey so far. I'm looking forward to the next match."

Bouzkova also had never advanced past the second round of a Grand Slam prior to this year's stunning performance. She upset No. 7 seed Danielle Collins in the opening round and hasn't lost a set in her past three matches.

"If you would tell me before the tournament started I would be in the quarters, I probably wouldn't believe you," Bouzkova said. "Since the first match, it has been a really tough journey for me. I have been feeling really many emotions. Just to be now in the quarters, it's something very special for me."

Bouzkova committed just four unforced errors while defeating Garcia. She hit 13 winners while Garcia had 24 winners and 25 unforced errors.

--Field Level Media

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