EASTBOURNE, UK - A virtuoso performance from Ons Jabeur put paid to No.14 seed Johanna Konta's hopes of progressing in her home tournament at the Nature Valley International as the unseeded player peaked to win their third-round contest 6-3, 6-2 in one hour and 10 minutes.
From a break down in the first set, the Tunisian delivered some spectacular shotmaking, tangling her opponent up in an array of spins as well as showing off a live arm with flashy forehand bullets, as she sealed a third consecutive victory for the first time since her run to the Moscow final last October. Indeed, despite her evident talent, Jabeur's consistency has rarely been her forte: coming into Eastbourne, the 24-year-old had been just 5-10 in WTA main draws this season - and this week marks her first quarterfinal run of 2019.
However, as though liberated by battling wins from a set down over Evgeniya Rodina and Mandy Minella in her two previous rounds, Jabeur rarely put a foot wrong against a much higher-ranked rival today. This was despite Konta playing an extremely clean match: the Briton only committed eight unforced errors to 15 winners. In the first set, the two-time semifinalist captured the first break to go up 3-2 - but was thence outmanoeuvred as Jabeur pulled out all the stops to reel off the next six games in a row.
A wonderful running forehand pass would be the start of the World No.62's turnaround as she broke back immediately, and over the next few games the crowd were treated to casually flicked dropshots, leaping high volleys, stunning forehand winners from way out of position and a ludicrously sidespun approach that completely flummoxed Konta.
Jabeur's purple patches have sometimes ended as abruptly as they have arrived, but if Konta was hoping for a drop-off in the Moscow runner-up's level, it never arrived. Indeed, under the pressure of Jabeur relentlessly attacking her returns, it was the Roland Garros semifinalist who cracked, coughing up a handful of groundstroke errors to concede her serve in the first game of the second set.
Jabeur needed no further encouragement to continue zoning. Yet another running forehand pass, arguably the most spectacular of the day, a backhand slice pass down the line and some more magic sidespin paved the way to the double break; ultimately, last year's Ilkley ITF W100 champion would rack up 22 winners today to only nine unforced errors and win 22 out of 26 points behind her first serve.
Konta would have one more glimmer of a chance to get back into the match in the sixth game, but could not take advantage of a 0-40 lead, with Jabeur saving two break points with a smash and a slice winner and Konta sending a backhand into the net on the third. Two games later, Jabeur served out victory to 30, taking her second match point with her second ace of the day.