‘Normal’ Vondrousova wins Wimbledon women’s title
Published 5:12 pm Sunday, July 16, 2023
WIMBLEDON, England (AP) — Marketa Vondrousova held four pieces of chocolate candy in her Wimbledon-winning left hand as she sat down with a half-dozen reporters for one of her last interviews of the evening.
A special treat, perhaps, to reward herself for becoming a Grand Slam champion at age 24?
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“I like sweets, so I’m always eating them,” Vondrousova said with a smile a few hours after beating Ons Jabeur 6-4, 6-4 at Centre Court on Saturday to become the first unseeded woman to win the title at the All England Club.
Some tennis players, it was pointed out, only allow themselves that sort of indulgence after a tournament finishes.
“No,” came her reply, “I don’t really care about this stuff. I also had McDonald’s after, I think, (beating No. 4 Jessica Pegula in the quarterfinals), so I’m just a normal person.”
There is something rather unique about Vondrousova, a left-hander from the Czech Republic who was the calmer player, with the steadier strokes, for the 1 hour, 20 minutes it took to get past a higher-ranked and more experienced opponent under a retractable roof that was closed because of high wind.
“She played,” Jabeur said, “maybe a perfect final for herself.”
That might be so — one key statistic Saturday was that Vondrousova made 13 unforced errors, Jabeur 31 — but there is more to it. Now set to move up from No. 42 to a career-high No. 10 in Monday’s WTA rankings, Vondrousova has announced herself as someone not to be taken lightly, a player with a mix of talent and moxie who might very well not be done appearing on her sport’s biggest stages.
And what must make other players wary is that if Vondrousova could succeed on grass courts, her least-favorite and least-successful surface, she really should be someone to keep an eye on no matter what kind of tournament she enters.
As a teenager in 2019, also unseeded, Vondrousova made it all the way to the final of the French Open on red clay before losing to Ash Barty. Two years ago, she reached the final at the Tokyo Olympics on hard courts before losing to Belinda Bencic and settling for a silver medal. Add in what she just managed to do at Wimbledon on grass courts — eliminating five seeded players, including No. 6 Jabeur, who is now a three-time major runner-up — and anything is possible.
Consider this: Until going 7-0 over the past two weeks, Vondrousova’s career record at the All England Club was 1-4.
That’s three first-round losses and one second-round loss.
“On grass, I didn’t play so good,” she said Saturday, thinking of those past results and also thinking back to her days learning tennis on clay at a club in Prague from age 8, “so I would never have thought of (winning Wimbledon). And also, if anybody would tell me this before the tournament, I would be like, ‘No, you’re crazy.’ I think clay was the best one for me. Now it’s grass.”
Then she laughed.
“I have no problems with hard courts (or) clay, and now I have no problem with grass, also, so we’ll see what’s going to happen,” said Vondrousova, who already had downed the first of what she said would probably be multiple celebratory beers. “But I feel like for me, now, it’s great to know that I can play anywhere.”
She describes herself as “obsessed with tennis,” constantly keeping tabs on multiple matches simultaneously — “I have my iPad, iPhone, everything.”
So it was difficult last year when she was away from the tour from April to October because of her surgically repaired left wrist. She said she had a stress fracture that left bone fragments in two different spots, requiring two operations and a cast that ran nearly up to her shoulder. Her ranking almost fell out of the Top 100 by the end of the season. Nike, she said, did not renew an expiring sponsorship deal.
The second procedure “was really, I feel like, stressful. I couldn’t watch tennis. I was really sad,” Vondrousova said. “I was playing good tennis before, and then (the wrist problems) happened, so I was like, ‘Oh, my God. I’m not going to stay healthy,’ you know? … And when you’re coming back, you never know what to expect.”
True. No way to know what to expect now, either. But given her versatility, her age and her ability to adapt to different surfaces, a healthy Vondrousova seems capable of plenty.