Doha, Qatar: Ons Jabeur brought the crowd to their feet as she pulled off a stunning upset to beat third seed Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 and moved into the quarterfinals of the Qatar Total Open on Wednesday.
With HH the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani watching from the stands, Jabeur forced an early break against former champion Pliskova, and even though the tall Czech star came back into the match in the second set, the Tunisian's powerful serves and groundstrokes proved too hot for the world No.3.
Jabeur, who reached the Australian Open quarterfinals - her best show in a Grand Slam event - had given eventual champion Simona Halep a big scare in Dubai before losing in a third set tie-breaker, and she has carried that form to the Qatari capital.
The 25-year-old defeated Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic in the first round and American Jennifer Brady in the second round, both in straight sets, but coming into the match, Pliskova was the overwhelming favourite.
Jabeur, a wildcard entrant, however, had a different plan as she broke Pliskova right at the start to grab the advantage, which she never really relinquished.
"I had to play really good, she's a tough player and especially her serve, it's not easy to break, so I had to really serve good or be ready for her returns. I mean, I know when I chose to receive at the beginning, it was an opportunity to try to break her at the beginning, it worked pretty good," said Jabeur.
"She served amazing, the breakpoints, so I was kind of frustrated sometimes because when I play the point and I miss the ball easy I know it's not going to be that easy at the end to return her serves. But I'm glad that I maintained a really good game and I'm looking forward for the next match," said Jabeur.
The fast-rising world No. 44, grit writ large on her face, had too much power in her strokes and Pliskova found herself always on the back foot.
Though the 2017 Qatar Total Open champion took the second set, Jabeur made sure she had the advantage back with a break in the sixth game of the third set to lead 4-2.
Pliskova immediately broke back and Jabeur seemed to have injured her leg in attempting a stretched shot and was moving gingerly.
But it was Pliskova who faltered as Jabeur wrestled back the advantage in the very next game and emphatically served out, sealing the biggest win of her career yet with an ace.
Jabeur is setting an example not only for Tunisian women but for the whole Arab region and she said she was happy about it.
"I'm really glad that I'm setting the example here, I'm giving them -- like I'm just sending the message that nothing is impossible and they can achieve anything, either in sports or any other level.
"I'm glad that I'm doing this, I started from the bottom, like they say, and hopefully I'm looking forward to see many other women rising in tennis, I mean especially in Tunisia or in Arabic world and Africa. It would mean a lot to me and I'm happy to share my experience one day and then help this young generation," she said.
Jabeur will now meet another former champion Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinal on Thursday.
Kvitova was stretched to a third set for the second consecutive day but she found the answers to progress with a battling 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 victory against Jelena Ostapenko.
Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova had lost the first set to Carla Suarez Navarro before finding her range in the round of 32, and on Wednesday she was again under pressure when Ostapenko took the second set to draw level.
But the 2018 winner in Doha did not give her Latvian opponent any chance in the third set to win the match in two hours.
"It was very exhausting today because of the opponent, because of the conditions, I mean this is not good for tennis and for the people who are watching for sure. We don't really know where we are playing and the shots are like really tough to read," said Kvitova.
"The wind was very, very difficult today and it was irritating all around the court. So it was tough to serve as well, but luckily I made some good things at the beginning of the third set and found a way in the first one as well."
World number one Ashleigh Barty was spared the tough conditions after her opponent Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan withdrew with an abductor injury.
Svetlana Kuznetsova also got a walkover from Amanda Anisimova who was troubled by gastrointestinal illness.
Kuznetsova will take on Belinda Bencic in the quarterfinal after the Swiss fourth seed defeated Kazakhstan's Yulia Putintseva 6-4, 6-3.
Meanwhile, Saisai Zheng of China defeated Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in 130 minutes in another upset.
Zheng will play Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus who stormed past Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-3, 6-0.