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By Richard Pagliaro | Friday, July 14, 2023


Marketa Vondrousova, the first unseeded Wimbledon women's finalist in Open Era history, faces two-time Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur for the Rosewater Dish.

Photo credit: Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty

Wimbledon—Centre Court grass represents revival ground.

A year after falling to Elena Rybakina in a three-set Wimbledon final, a recharged Ons Jabeur returns for her second straight shot at the title.

More: Rybakina's Choice for Wimbledon Winner

Across the net, a revitalized Marketa Vondrousova aims to raise the Rosewater Dish a year after she attended The Championships as a fan, her left wrist wrapped in a cast after her second surgery.

Playing for her second career title and first grass-court crown, the left-handed Vondrousova has split six career meetings with Jabeur.

The left-handed Czech prevailed 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 at the Australian Open then backed it up with a 7-6(5), 6-4 win at Indian Wells.

However, Jabeur won their lone prior grass encounter 6-3, 7-6(4) at the 2021 Eastbourne and is a more accomplished player on lawn winning a WTA Tour-best 28 matches on grass since the start of 2021.

Here’s our Wimbledon women’s final preview.

(6) Ons Jabeur (TUN) vs. Marketa Vondrousova (CZE)

Head-to-Head: Even 3-3

2023 Record: Jabeur 22-9; Vondrousova 26-10

Best Wimbledon Result: Jabeur two-time finalist; Vondrousova 2023 final

Career Grass Record: Jabeur 34-12; Vondrousova 10-11

Career Finals Record: Jabeur 4-7; Vondrousova 1-4

Career Slam Final Record: Jabeur 0-2 (lost 2022 Wimbledon final to Elena Rybakina and 2022 US Open final to Iga Swiatek); Vondrousova 0-1 (lost 2019 Roland Garros final to Ash Barty)

Career Three-Set Record: Jabeur 58-47; Vondrousova 29-40

Ons Jabeur on Marketa Vondrousova: “I'm going for my revenge. I didn't win against her this year. She has good hands. She plays very good. Honestly, I will try to focus on myself a lot. I'm not sure how she's going to play second Grand Slam final, I believe. We both hungry to win. Whoever deserve it more will win.”

Marketa Vondrousova on Ons Jabeur: “I feel like we're the same in some things. We're playing dropshots. We're playing slice. But we played few times already this year. We were supposed to play in Eastbourne also first round, but I withdrew. Yeah, she played finals here last year. She was playing also US Open final. She's used to playing finals in a Grand Slam. I mean, it's a final, so it's going to be tough match.”

Ons Jabeur's Road to the Final:
R1: defeated No. 70 Magdalena Frech 6-3, 6-3
R2: defeated No. 191 Zhuoxuan Bai 6-1, 6-1
R3: defeated No. 50 Bianca Andreescu 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
R4: defeated (9) Petra Kvitova 6-0, 6-3
QF: defeated (3) Elena Rybakina 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1
SF: defeated (2) Aryna Sabalenka 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3 

Marketa Vondrousova's Road to the Final:
R1: defeated No. 59 Peyton Stearns 6-2, 7-5
R2: defeated No. (12) Veronika Kudermetova 6-3, 6-3
R3: defeated (20) Donna Vekic 6-1, 7-5
R4: defeated (32) Marie Bouzkova 2-6, 6-4, 6-3
QF: defeated (4) Jessica Pegula 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
SF: defeated (WC) Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3

What’s at Stake

A maiden major title is on the line for both women as well as a champion’s check of £2.35 million, which is about $3 million.

Marketa Vondrousova is playing to become the first unseeded Wimbledon women’s champion in Open Era history and join Jana Novotna and Petra Kvitova as the third Czech to raise the Rosewater Dish.

Tunisian trailblazer Ons Jabeur is bidding to become the first Arab, first African and first Tunisian woman to capture a Grand Slam singles title.

Keys to the Wimbledon Final

Jabeur serve vs. Vondrousova return

Statistically, Vondrousova has been the best returner in the tournament, breaking 28 times in six matches. Jabeur is not far behind with 26 breaks of serve.

Jabeur tops the tournament winning 80 percent of her first-serve points, while Vondrousova leads Wimbledon in return points won off the opponent’s first serve.

Will Jabeur, whose 29 aces are third most for the fortnight, repeatedly target the Vondrousova western grip forehand return?

The low bounce of Jabeur’s serve on the lawn can make scraping out returns tough for opponents with extreme grips.

And if Jabeur does pick on that side, will the Czech be as effective chipping her blocked forehand return back deep in the court as she was toppling fourth-seeded Jessica Pegula and sentimental favorite Elina Svitolina?

While Jabeur doesn’t often blow opponents away with pace, her serve is deceptive because it hugs the grass and she launches it from a low ball toss making it tricky to read as Aryna Sabalenka, who earned just three break points in three sets against the Tunisian, found out.

“Her serve is not bouncing at all here. It's just really tough to find the rhythm on her serve,” Sabalenka said after her semifinal loss.

Dropper Duels

Dripping drop shots at the right times, Vondrousova has painted the frontcourt with fine finesse in her run to the final. In her semifinal sweep of Svitolina, Vondrousova often followed up two or three deep drives by deploying the dropper to drag Svitolina forward where she’s not nearly as comfortable at net.

The beauty of the Vondrousova drop shot is she can carve it off both wings and when the opponent runs it down she’s ready to loop a lob or slash a passing shot down the line to back it up.

Vondrousova has shown a strong smash throughout this tournament as well when opponents have tried to play over her head.

The challenge for Vondrousova here is deploying the dropper at the right time. Jabeur is one of tennis’ top touch artists who is excellent at hitting the re-dropper of a dropper or sliding a slice down the line off a drop shot.

The fact both women possess fantastic feel could create some intriguing all-court exchanges.

Pressure Play

There is no pressure in tennis comparable to stepping out on Centre Court to play a Wimbledon final before a packed crowd and estimated 1.2 billion television viewers world wide.

It will make your heart race as fast as a Formula 1 finish and your throat shrink to the size of Pez dispenser.

On the surface, Jabeur—who is trying to follow in the footsteps of champions Jana Novotna, Serena Williams, John McEnroe, Stefan Edberg, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray who all won Wimbledon the year after losing an SW19 final—should be more comfortable coping with severe spiking jitters given her grass experience and the fact she's knocked off four consecutive Grand Slam champions.

After all, Jabeur pushed Elena Rybakina to three sets before bowing 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the 2022 Wimbledon final, is playing her third Grand Slam final in her last five major appearances and is a popular presence at The Championships. Jabeur was a massive fan favorite beating Belarusian Sabalenka in the semifinals and figures to enjoy more Centre Court support on Saturday.

However, Vondrousova, who conceded she was “crazy nervous” before and during her semifinal win over Svitolina, has shouldered stress beautifully in his run.

Perhaps that’s because a year ago, Vondrousova was recovering from a second wrist surgery that left her uncertain about her competitive future as she attended Wimbledon qualifying as a fan to watch her sometime doubles partner compete. Growing in confidence every round, Vondrousova has beaten four seeds to reach the final.

Despite the fact she’s only won one career title, don’t discount Vondrousova’s big-match experience.

The 2019 Roland Garros runner-up to Ash Barty, Vondrousova reached the Tokyo Olympics final and played a strong match losing to Swiss Belinda Bencic 7-5, 2-6, 6-3. Vondrousova produced a phenomenal Olympic tournament surviving 16th-seeded Kiki Bertens in her opener, upsetting four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka in the third round before deconstructing fourth-seeded Elina Svitolina in the semifinals.

When she’s overlooked, Vondrousova is even more dangerous.

Creative Clash

Neither the 5’6” Jabeur nor 5’7” Vondrousova will bruise the back wall with blasts yet both women have gone toe-to-toe with power players at times in the tournament and defused them.

Consequently, we should see a final featuring some clever point construction rather than point-ending destruction.

That’s why this final could be highly entertaining if both can hold their nerve and produce the all-court tennis they’ve delivered to reach the final.

Final Questions

The forecast here in London calls for rain and whipping winds on Saturday, which will create an indoor final playing beneath the closed Centre Court retractable roof.

If that happens who does it favor?

You can make a case it will favor Jabeur more because she tends to play flatter drives, however a closed roof should benefit both players. Vondrousova requires a bit more time to generate the more expansive backswing on her forehand, but playing beneath the ceiling will provide more pristine conditions and reduce some of the funky bounces breezy conditions can create.

Why Ons Jabeur Will Win

Ons Jabeur will win Wimbledon because she’s the lawn leader. Since 2021, Jabeur has scored a Tour-best 28 grass-court wins becoming the first woman to win 28 lawn matches in a three-year span since Maria Sharapova did it from 2004-2006.

In contrast, Vondrousova owns a losing lifetime lawn record posting a 10-11 mark on grass.

The pure passion Jabeur has poured into Wimbledon spotlights the fact she’s playing for something greater than her own glory.

Jabeur is playing to realize her personal dream, yes, but the woman nicknamed “Minister of Happiness” in her homeland is also playing to bring joy, hope and inspiration to her people and those are very powerful forces to carry on court.

“I love this tournament so much,” Jabeur said in her 2022 Wimbledon runner-up speech. “I feel really sad. It’s tennis there is only one winner. I’m trying to inspire many generations from my country. I hope they’re listening. I also want to thank this beautiful crowd for their support throughout this tournament.”

In the 2022 final, Rybakina averaged 111 mph on her first serve, 12 miles-an-hour faster than Jabeur's serve average and one mile-an-hour faster than the Tunisian's fastest serve.

Tomorrow, Jabeur will have more time and opportunity to plot points against Vondrousova, whose average first serve speed was 104 mph and average second-serve speed was 86 mph.

When Jabeur has time to create, she can conjure magical combinations. Jabeur has paid her dues to arrive at this moment and now it’s time to reap the rewards of all she’s given. She will win because she knows her time is now.

Why Marketa Vondrousova Will Win

Marketa Vondrousova will win because she knows how to beat Jabeur and has already done it twice this year, including that 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 win over the Tunisian at the Australian Open last January.

Vondrousova’s versatility, lefty spins and skill opening the court with her slider serve wide to Jabeur’s weaker backhand wing will give her an edge she’s exploited beating the Tunisian three times in six meetings. Ad-side points are pivotal and Vondrousova knows she has a winning pattern against Jabeur on that side of the court.

While grass has been Vondrousova’s least successful surface, this is a different version of Vondrousova. First, she’s finally healthy. Secondly, she’s shown tremendous shotmaking skills on the run against precise players, including Pegula, Svitolina and 12th-seeded Veronika Kudermetova.

Internally, Vondrousova has been quite candid about feeling “crazy nerves.”

Externally, she hasn’t shown a trace of fear toppling favored opponents in her last five matches.

Vondrousova has been swinging freely at crunch time and if she can continue to play with that shotmaking swagger and apply all of her skills, she will win.


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