Tennis

Wimbledon | Bouzkova sees off Garcia as Jabeur outguns Mertens

In a break-through that has surprised many, an unheralded Czech, 23-year old Marie Bouzkova, has made it into the quarter-finals at Wimbledon with a 7-5 6-2 win over the way-more experienced Caroline Garcia from France, who defeated Britain’s 10th seeded Emma Raducanu in the 2nd-round.

I’m just trying my best to break records, to really open the path for the next generation. I’m just very positive about what I want to do. I have my goals very high for this tournament, so I’m going to keep doing that. No matter who’s coming, I’m going to build the fight, I’m going to fight till the end, because I really want the title. Ons Jabeur

Bouzkova will play Ons Jabeur in the Last 8 after the Tunisian World No 2 fought her way past Elise Mertens, the No 24 seed from Belgium.

“I don’t know how I got here,” said Bouzkova. “Now we will celebrate with strawberries and cream. It’s one of our 100 routines at Wimbledon.”

Bouzkova won the 2014 US Open girls title and reached the final of the Wimbledon junior doubles event the same year, where she also won her first Grand Slam main draw match in 2019 after defeating Mona Barthel in the 1st-round.

The Czech, though, had not been past the 2nd-round of a Major in 13 prior attempts entering Wimbledon, but she has now won 8 straight sets since losing the opener to No 7 seed Danielle Collins in Round 1.

“If you would tell me before the tournament started, I would be in the quarters, I probably wouldn’t believe you,” she said. “Since first match, [it] has been 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.”

Caroline Garcia found Marie Bouzkova’s consistency a step too far at The Championships on Sunday

© Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

In her latest match on Sunday, Bouzkova was by far the most consistent player on the court as she produced just 4 unforced errors against 13 winners, compared to Garcia’s 25 to 24 miscues, as she broke the Frenchwoman 4 times on her way to victory.

Bouzkova’s win over the World No 56 is her 3rd win this week against players ranked ahead of her.

In addition to Collins, the Czech, who is ranked 66, also beat Ann Li before upsetting 28th-seed and former quarter-finalist Alison Riske-Amritraj in round 3 – all Americans.

Her run at Wimbledon has brought Bouzkova into the spotlight,

In fact, Collins was the 6th top 20 player she has defeated, and 2nd this year, after compatriot Karolina Pliskova.

Bouzkova has reached 3 WTA finals in as many years, in Guadalajara (2022), Melbourne 250 (2021) and Monterey (2020), while her win-loss record stands at 18-9 so far this season.

Against Garcia, she snapped the Bad Homburg champion’s 8-match grass-court winning streak in 83 minutes, and is now 2-0 in her career against the former World No 4, having also beaten her on grass last year in Birmingham.

She started the match with a break, and although Garcia got the set back on serve at 4-4, the Czech quickly took back momentum, winning 9 of the match’s last 11 games from 5-4 down.

Bouzkova’s run this fortnight has been defined by her consistency, and turning defence into offence as she becomes the last Czech player standing in the draw.

A Czech has now reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals in 3 straight years, and completing the first match on No 2 Court, Bouzkova awaited the winner of the match between 3rd seed Ons Jabeur from Tunisia or Elise Mertens, the 24th seed from Belgium.

“It’s going to be a special one again, for sure,” Bouzkova said. “There’s no reason why not to keep this going.

“[I’m] kind of believing in myself right now. But most importantly enjoying my tennis, enjoying every day here.

“All these new emotions that I’m feeling this week, that’s already very special for me. I’m just going to go all out again in the quarter-finals.”

Ons Jabeur is a big favourite to win the title at Wimbledon after out-gunning Elise Mertens on No 1 Court on Sunday

© Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

It turned out to be Jabeur, now favoured to contest the final next Saturday, who had to dig deep to hold off Mertens and extended her unbeaten streak on grass to 9 matches in reaching the quarter-finals for a second year in a row.

The World No 2 got past the Belgian, 7-6(9) 6-4, in their 4th round encounter, and Jabeur now takes on Bouzkova for a spot in her first major semi-final.

“She’s a great opponent, really,” Jabeur said of Mertens. “It’s never easy to play her, and I had to dig very deep in the tiebreak. I couldn’t imagine myself playing three sets against her.”

With World No 1 Iga Swiatek’s exit in the 3rd-round, the 27-year-old Tunisian took up the torch as the highest-ranked player in the draw.

A champion in Berlin 2 weeks ago, Jabeur is now 9-0 on grass this season and she has yet to drop a set at The Championships.

“Hopefully I can continue the streak,” Jabeur said. “I love playing on grass.

“I love the connection between nature and me. Hopefully it can continue to the final.”

Mertens had to save match points in the 2nd-round against Panna Udvardy from Slovenia, and she played ousted 2018 champion Angelique Kerber in straight sets in the 3rd-round, looking primed to upset Jabeur after having beaten her in straight sets at the US Open last year.

Meanwhile, Jabeur had breezed through her opening 3 rounds, spending a total of 3 hours and 6 minutes on court in wins over Sweden’s Mirjam Bjorklund, Katarzyna Kawa from Poland and Frenchwoman Diane Parry.

The Tunisian earned the early break in the opening set, but Mertens’ consistency proved a major hurdle as, from 4-2 up, the Belgian pegged her back to level at 4-4, and by the time they reached the tiebreak, it was Mertens who was regularly dictating from the baseline.

It earned Mertens a 6-3 lead in the breaker before Jabeur mounted a furious comeback, playing 5 perfect points to save 5 set points.

Bravely, the Tunisian saved one with an ace, and 2 more with exceptional forehand winners, before earning one set point of her own.

Mertens responded with a backhand winner down the line and brought up her final set point with a 118mph serve, but another potent forehand from the unrelenting Jabeur provided a 2nd set point opportunity, which she secured when a Mertens backhand missed.

Against the odds, the 3rd seed had closed out the 60-minute set, 11-9, after winning a 16-shot rally, one of the longest of the match, to move a set up.

To her credit, the Belgian persisted as service breaks were exchanged early in the second but, as Jabeur’s confidence grew, the No 24 seed finally wavered and, having saved 3 of 6 break points, she surrendered her 7th, and the match, on a double-fault, her only one of the day, after the 1 hour 46 minute battle.

Jabeur is now the only seeded player left in her bottom half of the draw, with no-one else ranked in the Top 65.

“Not easy to play anyone on grass, especially with my position, everybody wants to grab the win,” Jabeur reflected. “I’m just very positive about what I want to do.

“I have my goals very high for this tournament, so I’m going to keep doing that. No matter who’s coming, I’m going to build the fight, I’m going to fight till the end because I really want the title.”

Elise Mertens fought hard but narrowly lost to Ons Jabeur in the round of 16 at Wimbledon

© Sebastien Bozon/AFP via Getty Images

Mertens rates Jabeur’s title chances as high.

“Definitely, I think she has a very good chance,” she said. “I think she also won Berlin. Winning a grass court tournament gives confidence for the next one.

“It’s very difficult to beat her. She has very good hands. Yeah, I think she has a chance.”

So, Jabeur faces Bouzkova next, ranked 66, in the quarters, which should be a shoe-in although with the vagaries of grass, who knows?

“I think it will be similar as today’s match,” Jabeur said. “I know that I love how she plays, Marie, really amazing to see her winning.

“It’s going to be a tough battle because I know she’s such a fighter. She’s everywhere, brings every ball. It’s going to be tricky.”

This will be the first meeting between Jabeur and Bouzkova, who had never progressed past the second round of a Slam before last week, and everyone is hoping for a good scrap.

Whatever happens, Jabeur continues to make history, the first player from Africa to climb to her World No 2.

“I’m just trying my best to break records, to really open the path for the next generation,” Jabeur has said. “I’m just very positive about what I want to do.

“I have my goals very high for this tournament, so I’m going to keep doing that.

“No matter who’s coming, I’m going to build the fight, I’m going to fight till the end ,because I really want the title.”

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