Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur aims to ‘get it right the third time’

By Sports Desk July 14, 2023

Ons Jabeur hopes she has served her apprenticeship as she bids to take the final step and win a maiden grand slam title on Saturday.

No other woman can match the Tunisian’s achievement in reaching three grand slam finals in the last five tournaments after finishing as runner-up at Wimbledon last year to Elena Rybakina and at the US Open to Iga Swiatek.

Jabeur has certainly proved her grass-court credentials this fortnight, beating grand slam champions in the last four rounds, including Rybakina and second seed Aryna Sabalenka from a set down.

“Last year was my first final of a grand slam,” said Jabeur. “I’m 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. Being in the last stages, I think it does help you believe more.

“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.”

Standing in Jabeur’s way is an unexpected finalist in Czech Marketa Vondrousova, who reached the 2019 French Open final as a teenager but has been mostly off the radar since.

Having already beaten the players who defeated her at Wimbledon the last two years, Jabeur will now aim to make it third time lucky in another way having lost to Vondrousova twice this year, at the Australian Open and Indian Wells.

It will be a match for the purists, with Jabeur and Vondrousova the two best exponents of the drop shot in the women’s game and possessing far more in their arsenals than simply power.

Jabeur said: “I’m going for my revenge. I didn’t win against her this year. She has good hands. She plays very good.

“I will try to focus on myself a lot. I’m not sure how she’s going to play (in her) second grand slam final. We’re both hungry to win. Whoever deserves it more will win.”

Jabeur is already the first African woman and Arab player to reach a slam singles final in the open era, and is known as the ‘minister of happiness’ in her home country for her sunny demeanour and the pride she has engendered.

Lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish would be a hugely significant moment for her home region and Jabeur is buoyed by the support.

“The good thing about those people, they always tell me, ‘Win or lose, we love you’,” she said. “That’s great words to hear. I always try to remember that, even though I know everybody wants me to win.

“For me, there is one goal: I’m going for it. I will prepare 100 per cent. Hopefully I can make history, not just for Tunisia, but for Africa.”

Vondrousova’s resurgence this season has come after she missed six months of 2022 following two operations on her left wrist.

The 24-year-old, who was dropped by clothing sponsor Nike, came to London last summer as a tourist, watching a friend play in qualifying before visiting the London Eye and going shopping.

This is the first time Vondrousova has come close to matching what she achieved at Roland Garros four years ago, when a semi-final victory over Britain’s Johanna Konta was followed by a one-sided loss to Ashleigh Barty.

Like Jabeur, she has done things the hard way here, beating four seeded players before seeing off crowd favourite Elina Svitolina in the last four.

 

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She is aiming to become the first unseeded women’s champion at Wimbledon and believes her previous final experience will come into play, saying: “I think it can definitely help in tough moments.

“I was very young, so I think it was just too much for me back then. I’m a bit older now. I think I’m a bit of a different person. I’m just very happy to be through this again.”

Vondrousova, who will break into the top 10 for the first time if she claims the title, can also draw on the remarkable success of female players from her country.

Fellow left-hander Petra Kvitova was the last Czech winner of Wimbledon in 2011 and 2014 but since then Lucie Safarova, Karolina Pliskova, Barbora Krejcikova and Karolina Muchova have also reached slam finals.

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