An ailing Ons Jabeur scraped by Czech Marie Bouzkova 5-7 7-6(5) 6-3 to keep her latest US Open campaign on track in the third round on Saturday despite an error-riddled performance.
The Tunisian fifth seed said this week she was feeling like a "zombie" due to illness but came back from the dead to overcome a cool-headed Bouzkova, firing off 56 winners under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
She will next play China's Zheng Qinwen, who beat Italian Lucia Bronzetti 6-3 4-6 6-4, in the round of 16.
Jabeur may be known as the Minister of Happiness but the perennial fan favorite had little to smile about in the opening set, as her mistakes quickly piled up and Bouzkova broke her on the fifth try in the fourth game.
The Tunisian broke back with a nice backhand slice in the ninth game but handed Bouzkova another break with a double fault on set point.
Down a break in the second set, Bouzkova took an off-court medical timeout after the seventh game with an apparent leg injury but kept up the fight even as she occasionally limped around the court, breaking back in the 10th.
Jabeur, who at times hunched over on the court in clear discomfort, found new life in the tiebreak, where she fired off crisp forehand winners to push the affair into a third set.
She got the critical break in the sixth set as Bouzkova double faulted and nodded solemnly as the Czech hit a shot into the net on match point, sealing the nearly three-hour slugfest.
The Wimbledon runner-up said she had struggled to catch her breath early in the match but was grateful to be playing at all after suffering a foot injury in Cincinnati.
Jabeur said she expects a big challenge from fourth-round foe Zheng, against whom she retired in their last meeting in Toronto in 2022.
Ons Jabeur once again finds a way! pic.twitter.com/6N29a6758E— US Open Tennis (@usopen) September 3, 2023