Ons Jabeur has survived a massive scare in the third round of the US Open after overcoming illness and a litany of unforced errors to beat an injured Marie Bouzkova in three sets. The Tunisian's opponent played a large chunk of the match virtually on one leg, and looked as if she would defy injury to prevail, before Jabeur rallied to seal a 5-7, 7-6 (7/5), 6-3 victory in just under three hours.
Bouzkova suffered a thigh injury midway through the second set and left the court for a lengthy medical timeout after clutching at her leg in obvious discomfort. The Czech 31st seed appeared close to tears when she did return to court but battled through the pain despite her movement appearing significantly limited.
The Czech was seen grimacing in pain a number of times after pushing off the injured leg, and could be heard explaining to her team in the stands that she had to keep fighting. At one point it looked as though Bouzkova might pull off the unthinkable after forcing the second set into a tiebreak, but Jabeur stood firm to send the match into a deciding third set.
Jabeur had been suffering from illness before this match and her previous victories at Flushing Meadows and appeared some way short of her best. Capitalising on her opponent's injury though, Jabeur resorted to using the drop shot with some regularity, in order to make her stricken opponent do more running.
Tennis world reacts to US Open drama
The World No.5 admitted that she employed the tactic perhaps more than normal to take advantage of her opponent's limited mobility. The Tunisian conceded after the match that it was "not nice" to make her injured opponent run around so much, but that it was necessary to secure victory.
Bouzkova often defied the pain to chase down Jabeur's drop shots, earning praise from fans and a shocked response from Jabeur after the match. "When I saw her struggling with her leg I tried to make her move as much as I can," Jabeur said. "I know that's not nice but I was trying to win the match.
"At certain times I was like 'Is she really injured?' I wasn't sure." The victory for the Wimbledon runner-up came despite a staggering 63 unforced errors in scenes described as "horrible" from fans. The Tunisian's drop shot tactic for her injured rival also proved to be a prickly topic for many viewers.
Shame on you Ons Jabeur, it's not the way win the match.Bouzkova was injured and play with pain,She can't run,and you Jabeur keep doing more and more dropshots, because you know She won't catch them ,it's not fair https://t.co/FUvjhNotp0 don't win this match OJ.
— Peter Peter (@peter24208) September 3, 2023
— Secola Edwards (@SecolaEdwards) September 3, 2023
What a horrible mess this match is 🤦🏽♀️😂😂 Ons is going to get away with it 😅😂#USOpen
— Shaheen (@topgooner100) September 3, 2023
Bouzkova is physically injured & Jabeur is mentally injured, Honestly getting frustrating watching Jabeur play. she is beating herself here, Bouzkova is literally playing on one leg and Jabeur just can't catch a break because of her stupidity #USOpen2023 #Usopenespn
— Ykush_Tyagiᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠᅠ (@Ykush_Tyagi) September 3, 2023
Painful to watch Marie Bouzkova here fighting back tears as she’s back on court after a medical timeout.
Clearly labouring and recognizing this is a huge missed opportunity.
Jabeur a game away from the second set.#USOpen2023
— Ben Lewis (@BenLewisMPC) September 3, 2023
Bouzkova vs Jabeur is up there as one of the most bizarre matches of the season. Bouzkova injured physically, Jabeur absolutely frazzled mentally.
— Jake Davies 🏴 (@jakedavi5) September 3, 2023
Jabeur on beating Marie Bouzkova at US Open
“I saw her struggling a bit with her leg. I tried to make her move as much as I can. I know that’s not nice but I was trying to win the match here.” 😂
Cruel but sweet… Ons Jabeur ❤️ pic.twitter.com/LqkidHXraE
— The Tennis Letter (@TheTennisLetter) September 3, 2023
— JayWalk (@voxeros) September 3, 2023
However others felt the tactic was fair game considering Bouzkova was fit enough to keep playing. “It’s never easy playing somebody injured,” Jabeur said in her on-court interview. “I saw her struggling a little bit with her leg. I tried to make her run with the drop shots. I was trying to win the match. Huge respect to her, for sure.”
Jabeur will now face China's Zheng Qinwen in the last-16. In other women's action, Belarusian second seed Aryna Sabalenka thrashed France's Clara Burel 6-1 6-1 to book her spot in the fourth round. The Australian Open winner will next face 13th seed Daria Kasatkina, who beat Belgian qualifier Greet Minnen 6-3 6-4.
American 17th seed Madison Keys bounced back from a set down to defeat Russian Liudmila Samsonova, 14th seed, 5-7 6-2 6-2 to reach the fourth round. She will take on compatriot Jessica Pegula, who beat Elina Svitolina 6-4 4-6 6-2. Pegula, the No 3 seed, is still trying to advance beyond the quarter-finals of a grand slam tournament.
Alex de Minaur charges into last-16
In the men's, Australia's Alex de Minaur made it to the last-16 in New York for the third time in his career with a crushing straight sets win over Chile's Nicolas Jarry. The 25th-ranked Chilean had no answers to the Australia's top-ranked player, who charged into the fourth courtesy of a 6-1 6-3 6-2 victory.
De Minaur will face the winner of the late match between third seed Daniil Medvedev or Sebastian Baez. Elsewhere, top seed Carlos Alcaraz powered his way into the fourth round in New York after an impressive 6-2, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win against Britain's Dan Evans.
Britain's Jack Draper outlasted American wildcard Michael Mmoh 6-4 6-2 3-6 6-3 to book his first trip to a grand slam fourth round. He will face Russian eighth seed Andrey Rublev, who defeated France's Arthur Rinderknech 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, 7-5.
Italy's Jannik Sinner got the better of Stan Wawrinka, beating the three-time grand slam champion, 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. The Italian will face Alexander Zverev in the last-16 after the German rallied from a set down to defeat former World No.3 Grigor Dimitrov, 6-7(2), 7-6(8), 6-1, 6-1.
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