It was a Wimbledon to remember both for tennis fans and 24-year-old unseeded champion Marketa Vondrousova, who raised the first major trophy of her career at the All-England Club.
There was not a hint of nerves from Vondrousova, as she calmly dispatched sixth seed Ons Jabeur in the championship match 6-4, 6-4.
Despite being unseeded, Vondrousova is a top-level talent on the WTA who has had bad luck with injuries in recent years. When healthy, her opponents are well aware of what she’s capable of, as seen in her run to the French Open final as a 19-year-old in 2019 and her Silver Medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.
The final did not go as expected for many, who felt that the more experienced Jabeur was the favourite. One of the best players on grass over the past few years, Jabeur had a terrific tournament that included a win in the quarter-final against Elena Rybakina in their rematch from a year ago in the final, and a grueling semifinal victory against No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka.
In the final, it was Vondrousova however who appeared like she had been there many times before while Jabeur seemed unsteady and delivered a much higher quantity of errors than we had seen throughout the rest of the tournament.
A year ago, Vondrousova was unable to even play at Wimbledon, let alone dream of winning the event. “I had a cast last year,” she recalled. “It was impossible. I was watching my best friend here playing qualies. I was a tourist here. I think it was the most impossible Grand Slam for me to win, so I didn’t even think of it.”
The win should be celebrated by many players on Tour who are aspiring to one day achieve such a result. It’s proof that even during a time when the Top Three of Swiatek, Sabalenka and Rybakina have appeared unbeatable at times, you don’t have to be a top ten player to win a Major.
After the victory, Vondrousova offered a glimpse into what her celebrations would involve, including beer and matching tattoos with her coach Jan Hernych, who had promised to get some ink done for the first time should she walk away with the trophy.
On the other side of the net, it was heartbreaking to watch the tears streaming down Jabeur’s face as it sunk in that she would once again be the runner-up at a major championship. Jabeur has now made three of the last five major finals including two Wimbledons as well as last summer’s US Open.
Perhaps Jabeur can take comfort in the story of Jana Novotna, who also lost her second Wimbledon singles final when she was also 28 years old but would return a year later and finally experience the thrill of victory on Centre Court. Tennis fans of that era will vividly remember a sobbing Novotna being consoled by the Dutchess of Kent after she fell to Martina Hingis in her second trip to the final in 1997. Those turned to tears of joy a year later when she triumphed against Natalie Tauziat and according to Jabeur, she definitely plans on conquering Wimbledon in the future.
The Rest of the Field
One of the most inspiring stories from Wimbledon this year was undoubtedly that of unseeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina. Svitolina had given birth to her first child in October and then returned to the WTA only three months ago on the clay in Charleston.
Her return to top form didn’t take long at all, as the former Top 10 mainstay won the title in Strasbourg in May, made the quarter-final at the French Open, and then enjoyed her best result ever at Wimbledon, reaching the semifinals before being stopped by Vondrousova.
Let’s not forget that among the players Svitolina defeated at Wimbledon, none was more impressive than her quarter-final victory against World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who she took out 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-2.
Aside from being an inspiration to other women returning from childbirth to compete at the highest level in sport, Svitolina is also very outspoken about the atrocities happening in her home country and continues to remind us of the ongoing struggle and challenges facing Ukraine.
Elsewhere in the draw, American Jessica Pegula came up just short in her bid to make the first major semifinal of her career. She was defeated in a three-set battle with eventual winner Vondousova 6-4, 2-6, 6-4. The 29-year-old has now made six Slam quarter-finals over the past two and a half years and seems poised to take the next step in the near future.
Speaking of the future, keep a close eye on 16-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva, who qualified for The Championships and then advanced to the fourth round where she ran into veteran Madison Keys. Andreeva defeated two seeded players in Barbora Krejcikova and Anastasia Potapova and has now made it to the third round or better at two consecutive majors.
Despite the lack of any Canadian women in the second week of Wimbledon this year, there were certainly positive results to recognize.
Bianca Andreescu enjoyed a personal best, reaching the third round for the first time in her career at Wimbledon and having a big win against 26th seed Anhelina Kalinina. Andreescu fought valiantly in defeat against eventual finalist Ons Jabeur in a match that saw the Tunisian win 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Leylah Annie Fernandez had the misfortune of facing Caroline Garcia yet again and ended up on the losing side once more by a score of 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(6). The pair have faced each other three times this year, with Garcia emerging victorious in each encounter.
Rebecca Marino fell in her opening round match against 29th-seeded Irina-Camelia Begu in three sets, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2. A positive note is that Wimbledon now makes it eight consecutive Grand Slam main draws for the BC native.
An uplifting story from the Canadian women at Wimbledon is that of Carol Zhao, who at the age of 28 qualified for the first Grand Slam singles main draw of her career. Zhao won her three qualifying matches including the most impressive against the No. 2 seed in that draw, Arantxa Rus. It was the ninth attempt for Zhao to make it through qualies at a Major and a result that should give her a big boost of confidence as she enters into the summer hardcourt swing.
In women’s doubles, it was the entertaining and unseeded duo of Barbora Strycova and Hsieh Su-wei who won the women’s doubles championship at Wimbledon this year by a score of 7-5, 6-4 over Elise Mertens and Storm Sanders.
It was quite the story for Strycova in particular, as the 37-year-old had just recently returned to the WTA after retiring back in 2021 following the Australian Open. She and Hsieh had last won a tournament together back in 2020 in Qatar.
Wimbledon has always been a tournament where Strycova had enjoyed success, having made the semifinal in singles in 2019 and hoisted the doubles trophy (again with Hsieh) that same year for the only Major title in her career up until now.
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