Ons Jabeur 'keeps fighting' to mark return from injury with victory at Indian Wells

Tunisian fourth seed, absent since the Australian Open due to knee surgery, progresses to third round

Ons Jabeur celebrates her win against Magdalena French at the Indian Wells Masters. AP
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Ons Jabeur marked her return from injury with a hard-fought victory over Magdalena Frech to book her place in the Indian Wells third round.

The Tunisian has been absent from the tour since her second-round defeat at the Australian Open in January and missed the Middle East swing due to knee surgery. Jabeur's lack of recent matches was evident at the start against world No 106 Frech but she fought back to claim a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win.

Jabeur, seeded fourth and therefore handed a bye into the second round, will face in the third round the Czech Republic's Marketa Vondrousova, who defeated her at the Australian Open.

"Honestly, it's been a tough period for me. Tonight, it's thanks to you guys (the fans) who gave me a lot of energy to come back in this match and win it," Jabeur, 28, said in her on-court interview.

"I'm not 100 per cent but I'm challenging my brain to do better. Tennis is a very tough sport but it's a new challenge for me since the last few weeks and hopefully it can be great."

An even first set nudged in Frech's favour when the Pole broke for a 5-3 lead, although Jabeur responded by breaking straight back. However, when serving to stay in the set, the Tunisian handed Frech a single set point, which she converted to take the lead.

Jabeur took the initial advantage in the second set with a break to lead 2-1, but Frech levelled in the very next game. The next four games stayed on serve until Jabeur earned her second break and made no mistake in serving out the set to level.

The third set was a more typical Jabeur performance as the two-time Grand Slam finalist found her touch with her trademark drop shots and controlled the majority of points as breaks in the first, fifth, and seventh games ensured a comfortable victory in the decider.

"The wind didn't help much because it's different from both sides but I tried to play Ons' drop shots, Ons' slices and it did help a lot," Jabeur said. "I kept in my mind to keep fighting point by point and it was great in the end."

Iga Swiatek domianted Claire Liu to begin her Indian Wells title defence in fine style. AFP

Earlier, world No 1 Iga Swiatek began her title defence in emphatic fashion by thrashing American Claire Liu 6-0, 6-1. It was the sixth time this season the top-seeded Pole has claimed a 6-0 set and she will face former US Open champion Bianca Andreescu in the third round.

"For sure Claire used that moment when I didn't play as aggressive that I should be, but I'm pretty happy that I was able to close it out pretty fast," said Swiatek, who last month the Qatar Open title and reached the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships final.

Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina also advanced to the third round with a narrow 7-6, 7-6 victory over former Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin.

Updated: March 12, 2023, 9:45 AM