Friday, July 14, 2023

Knock down one Czech, another pops up

No one knows that better than Ons Jabeur, who easily dismissed two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova at this year's event, only to find herself one Czech away from winning the championship that eluded her last year. 

That Czech would be Marketa Vondrousova, the 2019 French Open runner-up who has had to deal with two wrist surgeries since she made that run in Paris. Vondrousova, like her countrywoman Karolina Muchova, is very talented, but has had her share of bad fortune. And, also like Muchova, she now finds herself in a major 2023 final. 

In the quarterfinals, Vondrousova ended the highly notable run of wild card Elina Svitolina. The match was guaranteed to be a good--both players were playing their best tennis (this was somewhat of a surprise regarding Vondrousova, who had never done especially well on grass). But Svitolina's newly found aggression, which--paired with her already excellent defense--faltered against her Czech opponent just when she needed it. Having won the first set, Vondrousova "went off" in the second, giving Svitolina a chance to even the match, but it wasn't to be. Svitolina held back, and her opponent reset herself and won the semifinal 6-3, 6-3.

Vondrousova is the first unseeded player to reach the Wimbledon final in the Open Era, and the first one to reach the final since Billie Jean King did so in 1963.

Jabeur, who had the Wimbledon draw from hell, had to face 2nd seed and Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals. Of course. Commentators became involved in pondering the question: Should Jabeur just use her master trickery against Sabalenka, since she can't match her power? The answer was: Yes, but with a significant caveat--she also had to serve really well. And she did. Jabeur ended the match with 74/64 first and second serve win percentages. She defeated Sabalenka--not an easy task these days--6-7, 6-4, 6-3, and in doing so, once again became a Wimbledon finalist.

It should also be noted--yet again--that Jabeur and Svitolina each defeated four major champions.

Last year, Jabeur lost the final to Elena Rybakina, whom she defeated this year in the quarterfinals. She has been described as a woman on a mission, and indeed she is. On Saturday, she'll also be a woman under pressure, probably more from herself than from any other source. She and Vondrousova are 3-3 against each other, though their last match involved a retirement from Jabeur. They have played only once on grass, and Jabeur won that one. This year, Vondrousova has won both of their matches (Australian Open and Indian Wells). And while Jabeur had an extremely tough draw, Vondrousova's was much tougher than it appears on paper; Vekic, Bouzkova and Svitolina were very dangerous opponents.

Paths to the final:


round 1--def. Peyton Stearns
round 2--def. Veronika Kudermetova (12)
round 3--def. Donna Vekic (20)
round of 16--def. Marie Bouzkova
quarterfinals--def. Jessica Pegula (4)
semifinals--def. Elina Svitolina (WC)


round 1--def. Magdalena Frech
round 2--def. Bai Zhuoxuan
round 3--def. Bianca Andreescu
round of 16--def. Petra Kvitova (9)
quarterfinals--def. Elena Rybakina (3)
semifinals--def. Aryna Sabalenka (2)

In other news, Lyudmila Kichenok and Mate Pavic won the mixed doubles championship, defeating Xu Yifan and Joran Vliegen 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 in the final. Kichenok and Pavic were seeded 7th.

Also, the doubles final is set. 3rd seeds Storm Hunter and Elise Mertens will face off against Hsieh Su-wei and Barbora Strycova for the title. Hunter and Mertens defeated Caroline Dolehide and Zhang Shuai (16) in the semifinals, and Hsieh and Strycova defeated Marie Bouzkova and Sara Sorribes Tormo. Hsieh and Strycova are reunited for what is Strycova's final Wimbledon appearance. Hsieh has won the Wimbledon doubles title three times, with three different partners (with Strycova in 2019).

No comments: