PBS and NPR for Southwest Florida
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Marketa Vondrousova, ranked 42nd in the world, wins Wimbledon

Czech Republic's Marketa Vondrousova in action against Tunisia's Ons Jabeur during the Wimbledon women's singles final in London on Saturday. Vondrousova became the lowest-ranked woman to win the tournament.
Alastair Grant
/
AP
Czech Republic's Marketa Vondrousova in action against Tunisia's Ons Jabeur during the Wimbledon women's singles final in London on Saturday. Vondrousova became the lowest-ranked woman to win the tournament.

WIMBLEDON, England — Marketa Vondrousova became the lowest-ranked and first unseeded woman to win Wimbledon, defeating 2022 runner-up Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday.

Vondrousova is a 24-year-old left-hander from the Czech Republic who is ranked 42nd. She was the first unseeded woman to even reach the final at the All England Club in 60 years — the last, 1963 runner-up Billie Jean King, was seated in the front row of the Royal Box on Saturday alongside Kate, the Princess of Wales.

The retractable roof on the main stadium was closed, shielding everyone from the wind that topped 20 mph (30 kph) outside, and that perhaps allowed Vondrousova's smooth lefty strokes to repeatedly find the intended mark. Her shots betrayed none of the sort of tension that Jabeur's shots did.

Vondrousova trailed in each set but collected the last four games of the first, then the last three games of the second.

This is her first Grand Slam title. She lost in the final of the 2019 French Open as a teenager.

Jabeur dropped to 0-3 in major finals. The 28-year-old from Tunisia is the only Arab woman and only North African woman to make it that far in singles at any Grand Slam tournament.

But she lost to Elena Rybakina at the All England Club and to No. 1 Iga Swiatek at the U.S. Open last year.

Vondrousova's surge to the trophy was hard to envision two weeks ago.

She was 1-4 in previous appearances at Wimbledon, only once making it as far as the second round on its grass courts, before going 7-0 this fortnight. A year ago, Vondrousova was unable to even compete at Wimbledon, instead showing up with a cast on her surgically repaired left wrist to cheer on a friend.

Vondrousova was sidelined from April to October because of that injury and finished 2022 ranked just 99th.

They traded early breaks of serve and it was 2-all after 23 minutes. They again traded breaks, each one at love, and it was 4-all after 34 minutes.

But Jabeur's mistakes kept coming — she would finish with 27 unforced errors — and Vondrousova moved ahead by claiming 16 of its last 18 points in the first set.

During the break between sets, Jabeur headed to the locker room. When she came back out, she immediately made another error, and the spectators made a ton of noise to show their support. Another miscue gave Vondrousova a break point, and Jabeur gifted that with yet another shot into the net. The match was 45 minutes old, and Vondrousova led by a set and a break.

That, then, is when Jabeur began something of a turnaround. She took three games in a row to go ahead 3-1, showing signs of perhaps the sort of comebacks she created after ceding the opening sets before beating Rybakina, No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu.

The crowd was pulling for the popular Jabeur, nicknamed the Minister of Happiness for her demeanor on and off the court, the level of the support they were providing rising right along with her level of play.

It didn't last.

Vondrousova overcame that blip and, with her husband on hand for the first time during the tournament, she surged to the finish.

When she ended the match with a jumping volley, she tumbled to the grass, the happiest she's ever been on the surface.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press