… But sadly, not Petra! Wimbledon 2023 is in the books and an unexpected Wimbledon champion. The talented young lefty, Marketa Vondrousova from the Czech Republic is Wimbledon champion after a win in straight sets over Ons Jabeur in the final. Honestly, this was looking like Ons Jabeur‘s year. Having lost the final last year, she had the toughest of draws, beating Bianca Andreescu, Petra Kvitova, Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka to reach the final. She faced world number 42 and surprise finalist, Vondrousova, known as more of a clay-court specialist.
Vondrousova broke out in 2019 when she made the Roland Garros final, losing badly to Ash Barty. She also made the Tokyo Olympic final in 2021, losing out to Belinda Bencic. Since then, she has had a string of injuries and surgeries. Coming into the grass court season she had very few wins on grass, but had come through with lots of great performances. Notably in round 2 against Kudermatova and especially round three against Donna Vekic. (A match I saw live, when I visited Wimbledon this year! In fact I was sat next to Vondrousova’s doubles partner in the corner of court 15. )
Vekic had a fantastic win over Sloane Stephens just a day before and to be honest looked tired and quite flat. The first week of Wimbledon was badly affected by rain and many players had to deal with delays and then not getting the usual day off.
However, I was very impressed with Vondrousova as Vekic is a known grasscourt specialist. She had lost out to Kvitova in the Berlin final just the week before in a tight match.
Vondrousova followed this up with wins over Jessica Pegula and Marie Bouzkova. The Pegula win in the quarterfinals in particular was another big one. Vondrousova was 4-1 down with a point to go 5-1. Actually from there, it was a terrific match and the Czech played superbly. She is know for her slices and dropshots, but underestimated for her speed and actually some impressive power hitting against the hapless Pegula, who has now reached 6 grand slam quarter finals – and lost every one! Pegula did not play badly, indeed she was hitting the ball well too. But there is just something lacking in the really big moments with Jess.
In the semifinals Vondrousova beat Elina Svitolina who had been on an amazing run herself. Coming back after having a baby and with the war in Ukraine as the backdrop to her return, Svitolina had won the title in Strasbourg then made the Roland Garros quarterfinal. A thrilling 4th round win over Viktoria Azarenka was probably one of the best matches of the tournament. She followed that up with a win over world number one Iga Świątek in the quarterfinals and many were looking forward to a Svitolina/Jabeur final!
Not to be for Elina! Vondrousova’s tricky game with slices and weird angles completely bamboozled Svitolina in the semi-final.
Ons Jabeur will have quite a few regrets about her performance in the final. While Vondrousova played well, Ons did not. Frustration and the pressure she felt was obvious even in the third and fourth game of the match when she missed a shot and started hitting her leg and berating herself. Ons is such a likeable character, but in many ways the pressure she was under seem to really get to her. Possibly another factor is that the last three opponents had been massive hitters. Petra Kvitova, Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka are three of the biggest hitters on the tour and their game suits Ons in many ways. She was able to redirect the pace and use her great hands to put the ball back in.
Much talked about at Wimbledon is that the grass is a lot slower than it used to be. One marker of that is when you look at the recent champions. The idea of Kerber, Halep and Muguruza being Wimbledon champions would be in thinkable in the days of fast slippy grass courts. These days the courts at Wimbledon seems to play quite slowly – apparently especially centre court.
After a very entertaining ladies tournament at Wimbledon with many great matches, the final itself was a bit of a anticlimax. It’s never ideal when somebody doesn’t play their best and I did really feel for Jabeur who so much wanted to win this title and was visibly devastated at the end, but was not able to play her game.
This is a WTA blog, but I can’t do a Wimbledon 2023 post without a word for an absolutely fantastic mens singles final where Carlos Alcaraz played superbly to beat Nk at Djokovic. Djokovic hadn’t lost on centre court in something like 10 years but Alcaraz was amazing and battled to a fabulous victory. Well played Carlos!
Finally, a couple of doubles results from Wimbledon. The mixed doubles title was won by Lyudmyla Kichenok and Mate Pavic while the ladies doubles champions were Su-Wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova.
Kichenok usually plays doubles with Jelena Ostapenko who is very entertaining player, but quite unpredictable. To me, Kichenok is one of the most talented of the doubles only players with terrific groundstrokes and a great net game. I was quite thrilled to get a selfie with her at the Birmingham tournament last month. The mixed doubles title at Wimbledon gave Ukraine its first Grand Slam champion ever I believe.
In the absence of Krejcikova and Siniakova, I was also delighted that Strycova and Hsieh won the women’s doubles title. Strycova is such a character and after having a baby came back for one final run this year and the fact that she won the women’s doubles title was just a fantastic story. Hsieh is endlessly entertaining and such an unusual player – a real magician and bouncy energy is quite engaging as well.
So, two Czech Wimbledon champions… even if not my favourite ones!