Ons Jabeur's hopes of becoming the first African to lift the Rosewater Dish gathered momentum on Sunday as she edged out Belgian Elise Mertens 7-6, 6-4 to reach the Wimbledon quarter-finals for the second year running.
The second-ranked Tunisian, the only seed left in the bottom half of the women's draw, has been the form player over the opening week of the championships as she reached the last eight without dropping a set.
But Mertens was no pushover during the contest, as she earned five set points during a marathon first-set tiebreak.
Once Jabeur, 27, produced the firepower to wriggle out of trouble, however, she raised her game in the second set and wrapped up the win when Mertens surrendered with a double fault.
Just over a year ago, Jabeur became the first Arab woman to win a singles title on the elite women's tennis tour when she lifted the trophy in Birmingham — also a grass-court tournament.
“I love playing on grass, I love the connection between nature and me, so hopefully it will continue this way for me and maybe through the finals," Jabeur said.
Shaking off the disappointment of a first-round loss at the French Open, Jabeur's goals are “very high" at the All England Club.
“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,” said Jabeur, who has never reached a Grand Slam semi-final.
Up next is unseeded Czech player Marie Bouzkova, who advanced to her first Grand Slam quarter-final by beating Caroline Garcia of France 7-5, 6-2.
Simona Halep is the last Grand Slam champion standing on the women’s side. The 16th-seeded Romanian won at Wimbledon in 2019 and at the French Open the year before that. She faces fourth-seeded Paula Badosa in the fourth round on Monday.
Jabeur and Badosa are all that's left of the top 15 seeds.
Also Sunday, Tatjana Maria eliminated 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 to reach her first Grand Slam quarter-final at the age of 34.
“I always believed that at one point I can show what I can do,” said the 103rd-ranked Maria, who ousted fifth-seeded Maria Sakkari in the third round. “I’m happy that today, I mean, I came back when I was down, so I’m proud of myself.”
Maria will face 22-year-old Jule Niemeier, who is making her All England Club debut, in an all-German showdown for a place in the semi-finals. The 97th-ranked Niemeier advanced by beating Heather Watson 6-2, 6-4 on Centre Court in just her second Grand Slam tournament.
Jabeur described her match, particularly the tiebreaker, as “10 out of 10 stressful" but that she's coping better now.
“I am breathing better. I’m expressing more my feelings before the matches. That helps me, like, really play the game that I want to play,” she said.
“Me, I’m just someone that enjoys life a lot. For me, a tennis career is going to be very short. What’s more important for me is my character and how people talk about me.”