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Historic Marketa Vandrusova thought winning at Wimbledon would be ‘impossible’

Market Vondrousova tasted her “impossible” Wimbledon a triumph so far Ons Jaber cried in despair from the most painful defeat in her career.

There has been a run of surprise tournament winners in the women’s tournament, but Wimbledon has so far been the exception, with Czech Vondrousova taking advantage of a nervous Jabert performance to claim a 6-4 6-4 victory.

The 24-year-old is the first unseeded player to win a women’s singles title here, an all the more unlikely given that she was in London last year as a tourist and with her left wrist in a cast.

“When I came back, I didn’t know what was going to happen, if I would be able to play at this level again,” said Vandrusova, who had won just four matches on grass before arriving at Wimbledon.

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

Although not a household name, Vandrusova has been in a Grand Slam final before, at the 2019 French Open, when she was well beaten by Ashley Barty.

She also reached the Olympic final in Tokyo in 2021 she had to settle for silver behind Belinda Bencic, but this time she was not to be denied the big prize.

Zaber was a crowd favourite, but among Vandrusova’s fans was her husband Stepan Simek, who handed over the care of their cat, Frankie, to fly to London for the final.

“I think that when I approached the box, he cried,” Vandrusova said. “I saw him afterwards and he was crying a lot. I think this is the first emotion I’ve seen from him in eight years. I think he cried on the wedding day too, but that was about it.

The couple will celebrate their very happy first wedding anniversary on Sunday, when Vandrusova also plans to take coach Jan Mertl to a tattoo parlor to fulfill a pre-tournament bet.

“I think I’ll vote for him,” she said. “Maybe we will get the same one. We were talking before the tournament and he said, “Yeah, maybe if you win a Grand Slam, then I’ll do it.” Then it happens.”

It was Jabjor’s third final in her last five majors, having lost here to Alena Rybakina 12 months ago and to Iza Sveontek at the US Open.

The popular Tunisian got revenge on Rybakina in the quarter-finals before seeing off Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka to enter the match as the favourite.

But the pressure of trying to get over the line, as well as trying to become the first North African and Arab Grand Slam champion, proved too much to handle.

She got off to a good start, breaking Vondrousova’s serve twice to lead 4-2, but both times the Czech fought back immediately, and Jabert seemed to freeze completely after that.

With strong winds in the forecast, the organizers decided to close the roof despite it being dry, and Vandrusova was very pleased to have spent her last match and a half indoors.

Zabeor had faced strong players in her previous three matches, but now, taking on the crafty Vondrousova – who is almost a mirror image of the Tunisian in her love of drop shots, slices and lobs – she couldn’t get the same result.

Spurred on by the crowd, Zabior rallied from 1-0 down 40-0 to take a 3-1 lead in the second set, but the strain in her legs and arms was too evident for Vandrusova to keep putting the ball back into play, the sixth seed again reeling.

A double fault on her first match point gave a hint of nerves, but she cleared a cool volley in the second before plunging to the court in dazed celebration.

“When I was 40-0, I could hardly breathe,” Vandrusova said. “I’m just really happy that I stayed in my head and I just kept it together.

“At some points it was very difficult. I think it was just a great match. We had some great rallies. She is a wonderful player. She is an amazing person.

“That was the hard part too. We know each other very well. I’m just really glad I kept fighting in the big moments.”

Emotions were very different for Jabjor, who sobbed as she received her runner-up plate before sharing a consoling hug with the Princess of Wales.

“Obviously she was very good,” Jaber said. “She didn’t know if she wanted to hug me or not. I said I always welcome her hugs.’

The 28-year-old made no attempt to embellish the result, saying: “It’s very difficult. This is the most painful loss in my career.

“It hurts because you feel like you’re so close to achieving something you want and you’re actually back to square one.

“I felt a lot of pressure, a lot of stress. But as in every final, as in every match, I said to myself: “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

“To be honest, I didn’t do anything wrong. I did everything I could. I think it takes time for me. This time it was not to be.

“Definitely this match, last year’s match, the US Open final, will teach me how to win those finals.

“I will definitely continue to learn, continue to be positive. I think that’s what will keep me going. Otherwise, if I get depressed about it, it won’t help much.”


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