Wimbledon: Redemption for Jabeur or Vondrousova

 - Alex Sharp

A new Grand Slam champion will be crowned in the Wimbledon women's final on Saturday.

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

So much of sport is dealing with adversity, dealing with setbacks, being able to cope with falling just short of life goals.

For Ons Jabeur and Marketa Vondrousova there is a golden chance to erase painful memories to become a Grand Slam champion at The All England Club.

Jabeur: "I'm working on myself like crazy"

Let's take it back to July last summer.

With a picture of the Venus Rosewater Dish as her phone screensaver, Ons Jabeur was left devastated having lost the Wimbledon final to Elena Rybakina.

Meanwhile, Marketa Vondrousova was sidelined after wrist surgery, but was also in London. She was initially supporting her compatriot Miriam Kolodziejova in qualifying down the road at Roehampton and then took in the sites as a tourist including the London Eye, restaurants and some retail therapy.

Fast forward 12 months and both Jabeur and Vondrousova find themselves back in south London ready to complete their redemption.

Since making the 2022 Wimbledon and US Open finals, Jabeur has been disrupted by injuries and minor knee surgery. As well as rebuilding her game and fitness, the Tunisian trailblazer has been digging deep with a sports psychologist.

"I'm working on myself like crazy. You have no idea what I'm doing. Every time there is something, I'm very tough with myself, try to improve everything. Very impatient sometimes, which is not good," admitted the world No.6.  

"Maybe the injuries did slow me down and teach me to be patient and accept what's going on.

"For me, I always believed in mental, in working on it. That's what I've been doing for the past years since I was maybe 10 years old because I know if you are not ready physically, mentally you can always win."

Ons Jabeur / Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

The 28-year-old has been adamant her 2022 major heartache can be twisted into a positive.

"Definitely getting closer to winning the Grand Slam that I always wished. I would say I always believed. But sometimes you would question and doubt it if it's going to happen, if it's ever going to happen," continued Jabeur, hoping to become the first African Grand Slam singles champion.

"Being in the last stages, I think it does help you believe more. For me, I'm going to learn a lot from not only Wimbledon's final but also US Open final, and give it my best. Maybe this year was all about trying two times and getting it right the third time. So let's see."

Vondrousova: "I'm just grateful to be on a court again"

It's a similar sentiment for Vondrousova, to harness everything she can from reaching the Roland-Garros 2019 final.

Ash Barty swept her aside that day in Paris and two wrist surgeries since disintegrated any major momentum.

"After everything I've been through, it's not always easy to come back. You don't know if you can play at this level and if you can be back at the top and back at these tournaments," stated the 24-year-old.

"I've been through it. Once I was very young, so I think it was just too much for me back then.

"You know what to do. You know you have to have good people around you. Yeah, I think I'm a bit different person.

"I just feel like I'm just grateful to be on a court again, to play without pain. I'm just really grateful for it."

So, both finalists are taking nothing for granted when they walk out onto the luscious lawn of Centre Court. They've certainly earnt their title shot.

Jabeur has emerged from the brutal bottom half of the draw, using that steely mental fortitude to edge four Grand Slam champions in a row; Bianca Andreescu, Petra Kvitova, Rybakina and then Aryna Sabalenka. Three of those four were compelling comebacks from a set down.

"I think this year the draw is much tougher," said Jabeur, comparing to her 2022 run.

"Playing against amazing players that not only they play good on any surface, but they play amazing on grass. That was very challenging.

"Also maybe it's a good thing, that gives me more confidence to be ready for the final. Also getting that rhythm of playing great tennis to be ready for the next match."

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

As the first unseeded Wimbledon women's finalist since Billie Jean King in 1963, Vondrousova has been some surprise package.

The world No.42 has outmanoeuvred four seeded opponents this fortnight, in stark contrast to a 1-4 Wimbledon record from previous visits to SW19.

"Here on grass, it was almost impossible 'cause, I didn't play many matches on grass before. My best one was second round," added Vondrousova.

"I mean 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.

"She's used to playing finals in a Grand Slam. It's a final, so it's going to be tough match no matter."

These two exceptional athletes, who both cut a wicked slice and both relish clipping in drop shots are sure to bring another enthralling instalment to their 3-3 rivalry.

Jabeur claimed their only previous grass encounter at Eastbourne 2021, however, the resurgent Vondrousova has prevailed in both Australian Open and Indian Wells battles this season.

"I'm going for my revenge. I didn't win against her this year. She has good hands. She plays very good," mused the Tunisian.

"I want to focus more on myself. I want to make my path worth it, winning all these Grand Slam champions to be in the final. Yeah, I'm going full in, and hopefully this time it will work."

Ons Jabeur & Marketa Vondrousova / Open d'Australie 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT