Cameras captured a devastated Ons Jabeur as she fell to the players tunnel floor after heartbreak at the Australian Open late on day four at Melbourne Park. The women’s No. 2 seed became the latest high-profile player to exit a Grand Slam after A.J 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 loss To Czech No. 86 Marketa Vondrousova.
In a roller coaster ride that lasted 1 hour and 41 minutes and ended just after 1 am at Rod Laver Arena, Jaber emerged from behind a series of unintentional fouls. The Tunisian made 50 unforced errors against Vondrousova, breaking her serve eight times.
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Jabeur had only fleetingly shown the form that took her to two Grand Slam finals during a slender opening-round win and she struggled again against the lesser-known Czech. The second seed lost her first match against Vondrousova, who led 3-0. Vondrousova had lost all three of her previous matches at tour level against Jabeur but this was their first meeting on a difficult court.
The Czech player broke again for 5-1 and secured the set in just 24 minutes of dominant tennis. Jaber, who missed the Australian Open last year due to a back injury, served as a shadow for the player who won the Madrid and Berlin titles last year in a break season that pushed her to second place in the world rankings.
She responded early in the second set but was broken again when he served the set 5-3. Jabeur then blasted a set point on Vondrousova’s next serve, but at 6-5 he created another chance and converted this time.
It was a rare moment to celebrate a desperate, sparkless performance against an inspired opponent who made fewer mistakes. Vondrousova wasn’t denied, as she quickly pulled off a triple break in the final set for a famous win.
Jabeur’s tears dried up after the match and in heartbreaking scenes she was seen slumped on the floor as she made her way back down the tunnel to the players’ changing rooms. Confrontational photos left fans heartbroken for the popular star.
Vondrousova, 23, was ranked 14th in 2019 and is on her way back after an injury-plagued season that required surgery on her left wrist.
“It’s always hard to come back after such a long time,” she said. “I just started in November and I felt good and did great,” said left-handed Vondrousova, who reached the last 16 at Melbourne Park in 2021.
“I’ve improved my fitness a lot and I’m very happy to be back at this level and to be able to play these kind of matches.” The win set Vondrousova up against the Czech Republic in the third round against world number 82 Linda Frohvertova.
Iga Swiatek is looking to make money as the seeds fall
Jabeur’s shock exit opens the door for world number one Iga Swiatek and title challenger Jessica Pegula, who both work out on Friday. Coco Gauff is another attempt to make it to the fourth round.
Poland’s Swiatek will be hoping to take full advantage of her high-profile exits as she seeks a fourth Grand Slam title – but first in Melbourne. She is expected to make light work of Spain’s 100th seed Cristina Boxa.
Also on the fifth day, the brilliant American Pegula will face Ukrainian player Marta Kostyuk, ranked 61st, also at Margaret Court Arena. At Rod Laver Arena, the 18-year-old Gauff, the seventh seed who knocked out Emma Radokanon in the second round, faces fellow American Bernarda Pera.
The center court will also witness an exciting confrontation between the 24th seed, Victoria Azarenka, the two-time Australian Open champion, and the tenth seed, American Madison Keys.
Danielle Collins, who lost last year’s final to the now-retired Ashleigh Barty, is another American athlete in action. She faces a test in 22nd seed Elena Rybakina, last year’s Wimbledon champion.
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