Wimbledon Day 13: Vondrousova pulls off 'impossible' Slam victory

Czech lefty becomes tournament's first unseeded women's champion in Open Era as Jabeur suffers third Slam final defeat

Marketa Vondrousova / Finale Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

A new champion was crowned at Wimbledon on Saturday, with a clinical and composed display against a crowd favourite.

Here's what happened on a Day 13 at the All England Club.

Magical Marketa

This time last year, Marketa Vondrousova’s hand was in a cast after having wrist surgery that sidelined her for six months.

Entering this grass-court season, she had just two tour-level wins on grass to her name and she came into Wimbledon unseeded and ranked 42 in the world.

On Saturday, the Czech lefty became the first unseeded woman in the Open Era to win Wimbledon as she handed world No.6 and last year’s runner-up Ons Jabeur a heartbreaking 6-4, 6-4 defeat to secure a maiden Grand Slam crown.

Vondrousova, a finalist at Roland-Garros in 2019, will now crack the top 10 for the first time in her career, rising 32 spots to No.10 in the world.

“I think everything is sinking in. It's unbelievable. It was very tough match, and I was so nervous before. I'm just so grateful and proud of myself,” said Vondrousova in her post-match press conference.

“I had a cast last year at this time. It was impossible. I was watching my best friend here playing quallies. I was a tourist here.

“When I was coming back, I didn't know what's going to happen, if I can play at that level again. I mean, this seems impossible. Even, like, I don't know, on grass I didn't play well before.

“I think it was the most impossible Grand Slam for me to win, so I didn't even think of it. When we came, I was just like, ‘Try to win couple of matches’. Now this happened, it's crazy.”

Playing with the roof closed in front of both British and tennis royalty and a host of Hollywood A-listers, Vondrousova defeated her fifth seed of the fortnight, and second top-six opponent of the week in impressive fashion.

Jabeur drew first blood, breaking for a 2-0 advantage but Vondrousova struck back immediately to recover. The Tunisian opened up another two-game gap but Vondrousova once again erased her deficit to level for 4-4.

Back-to-back unforced errors from Jabeur gave the Czech the lead for the first time in game nine; a missed overhead followed by a netted backhand handed Vondrousova a break and a 5-4 position. And she calmly closed out the set with a love hold on the 40-minute mark.

Marketa Vondrousova / Finale Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Jabeur went off court for a toilet break between sets then got broken in her opening service game of the second. But some clever play from the No.6 seed earned her two breaks of serve as she surged ahead 3-1. Still, Vondrousova would not relent and they were soon back on level terms.

The 24-year-old made her move once again in game nine, breaking serve to put herself in the position to serve for the championship, and she sealed the deal with a brilliant volley winner before falling to the ground in disbelief.

“I don’t really know what's happening now, it's an amazing feeling. Ons, congratulations, you're such an inspiration for all of us and I hope you're going to win one day,” said Vondrousova in her on-court speech after beating Jabeur for a third time this year.

‘Most painful loss’

Jabeur was contesting her third Grand Slam final and was trying to become the first African-born player to win a major singles title.

The former world No.2 looked inconsolable as she received a hug from Kate, the Princess of Wales, on court and couldn’t fight back her tears during the trophy ceremony.

“I will try to speak because this is very, very tough. I think this is the most painful loss of my career,” confessed the 28-year-old Jabeur, who took out three top-10 players, including last year’s champion Elena Rybakina, en route to a second consecutive Wimbledon final.

“First I want to say congratulations to Marketa and her team for this amazing tournament. You are an amazing player and I know you had a lot of injuries so I’m very happy for you,” she told Vondrousova.

“It’s going to be a tough day today for me but I’m not going to give up and I’m going to come back stronger and win a Grand Slam one day.”

‘It wasn’t meant to be’

Jabeur eliminated four consecutive Grand Slam champions to reach the final and despite the loss, she assured her team, and the crowd, she plans on winning Wimbledon in the future.

“It was an amazing tournament for me, I wish I continued ‘til the end. I want to thank my team for always believing in me. We’re going to make it one day, I promise you,” she said.

In the locker room, Jabeur was consoled by former world No.1 Kim Clijsters, who during her playing days lost her first four Grand Slam finals before becoming a four-time major champion.

“We were crying together at the locker room,” Jabeur told reporters in her press conference.

“I love Kim so much. She's a great inspiration for me. I grew up watching her a bit. The fact that she takes the time to give me advice and to really hug me, always be there for me, I think it's priceless.

“She was telling me all the time she lost four. That's why I know the information, otherwise would have been tough.

“But, yeah, that's the positive out of it. You cannot force things. It wasn't meant to be. It wasn't meant to be.”

Beer and tattoos

On her part, Vondrousova plans on celebrating her first Grand Slam title by grabbing a beer and getting a new tattoo.

She made a bet with her coach Jan Mertl that he would get a tattoo if she won a Grand Slam. They may end up getting the same one together.

“I think I'll choose for him. Maybe we'll get the same one. We talked before the tournament, and he said, ‘Yeah, so maybe if you win a Grand Slam, then I'll do it’. Then this is happening. I hope he's not going to back out. I think I'm just going to make him do it,” she said.

Marketa Vondrousova / Finale Wimbledon 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT