Wimbledon Day 11: Jabeur back in final, faces Vondrousova

Tunisian digs deep to overcome Sabalenka and return to title decider for second straight year

Ons Jabeur / Demi-finales Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

The women's final has been set as Ons Jabeur claimed a courageous three-set win over Aryna Sabalenka and Marketa Vondrousova ended Elina Svitolina's tremendous run.

Here's what happened on Thursday at the All England Club.

A third chance for Ons

The Ons Jabeur revenge tour continues as the Tunisian knocked out world No.2 Aryna Sabalenka 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3 to reach a second consecutive Wimbledon final after trailing her opponent by a set and break.

Sabalenka is the fourth Grand Slam champion in a row to fall to Jabeur this fortnight following Bianca Andreescu (third round), Petra Kvitova (fourth round) and Elena Rybakina (quarter-final).

The No.2 seed is also the third player to have ousted the Tunisian at Wimbledon in previous editions, only to exit at her hands this week at the All England Club.

Sabalenka had defeated Jabeur in the Wimbledon 2021 quarter-finals, Rybakina was the victor in their Wimbledon final last year, while Kvitova knocked out Jabeur in the first round in 2019.

Next up for Jabeur is another shot at revenge, this time against Marketa Vondrousova.

“Marketa is a great, great player. I’ve already lost two times to her this year so going for my revenge again. I guess it’s working,” said Jabeur with a laugh.

Jabeur is through to a third Grand Slam final from her last five majors and the world No.6 will be looking to become the first Arab-born player in history to win a Slam title.

“It was very, very difficult accepting her serves and her shots, so thank you guys for cheering for me until the last moment and believing me,” Jabeur told the Centre Court crowd on court following her triumph over Sabalenka.

The 28-year-old Jabeur was the one with more opportunities to break in the opening set but lost the tiebreak and found herself trailing by a set after 58 minutes of play.

She dug deep to climb back from 2-4 down in the second set, winning four games in a row, and had the upper hand in the decider to close on history.

Aryna Sabalenka et Ons Jabeur / Demi-finales Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

“I’m working a lot with my mental coach about this, it’s helping me a lot. I’m very proud of myself because maybe old me would have lost the match today and went back home already, but I’m glad that I kept digging very deep and finding the strength (to get the win),” said Jabeur, referring to her French sports psychologist Melanie Maillard, who has been with her this fortnight at Wimbledon.

“I’m learning to transform the bad energy into a good one. The anger that I had from the first set, I tried to stay focused, and realise there are some things I have no control over. She can ace anytime, she can hit a good serve on a break point and that’s frustrating a bit but I’m glad that I’m accepting it and digging deep to just go and win this match and hopefully this tournament.”

Marketa into second Slam final

Earlier on Centre Court, Vondrousova became the first unseeded women’s singles finalist at Wimbledon in the Open Era with an impressive 6-3, 6-3 victory over Ukrainian wildcard Elina Svitolina.

The Czech lefty, ranked 42 in the world, is through to her second Grand Slam final, having made the championship match at Roland-Garros back in 2019. She is the second lowest-ranked woman to reach the Wimbledon final.

“I cannot believe it, I’m just very happy that I made the final again. It was very tough. She’s such a fighter and she’s also such a great person. I think it was a very tough match and I’m just very happy,” said Vondrousova on court.

The 24-year-old entered Wimbledon with just four grass-court main draw wins in her career and is now 10-11 on the surface.

“Here on grass, it was almost impossible because I didn't play many matches on grass before. My best (result) was second round. For me, when it was clay or hard, maybe I would say, yeah, maybe it's possible. But grass was impossible for me. It's even crazier that this is happening,” said Vondrousova.

Vondrousova’s husband Stepan Simek has been at home taking care of their cat Frankie, but a cat-sitter will now take over those duties and he will be by his wife’s side for Saturday’s final.

On her part, Svitolina had a statement tournament, in which she became just the third woman in the Open Era to defeat four former women’s singles Grand Slam champions in a single major after Serena Williams at the 1999 US Open and Justine Henin at Roland-Garros in 2005.

Victories over Slam champions Venus Williams, Sofia Kenin, Victoria Azarenka and world No.1 Iga Swiatek helped her reach the final four in just her second tournament back from maternity leave.

Marketa Vondrousova / Demi-finale Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

The Ukrainian rued her missed opportunity to reach a maiden major final but said there was still plenty to be proud of.

“(I’m proud of) the fighting spirit that I was showing. Yeah, with the nerves, as well, that I dealt. Of course, not today. Today I wish I played a bit better. I wish that some games I played better,” said Svitolina, who gave birth to her first daughter Skai last October.

“But I think the matches that I played before, they were quite good.”

Asked what message she hoped her Wimbledon run would convey to people, Svitolina said: “To believe in yourself. Different kind of levels, as well. In different situations, you always need to find the way to fight for your dream. Just continue dreaming and trying to achieve your dream.”

Elina Svitolina / Demi-finale Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT