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Jabeur and Vondrousova to meet in shock Wimbledon final


Marketa Vondrousova celebrates a point in her Wimbledon semi final victory. Picture: Kin Cheung.

Never-say-die Ons Jabeur is to face unseeded Marketa Vondrousova in a Wimbledon women's final that no-one could see coming.


Despite both being grand slam finalists in the past, the pair's Centre Court showdown on Saturday could hardly have been predicted at the start of the tournament.


But after ruthlessly dismantling Ukrainian sporting hero Elina Svitolina's dream 6-3 6-3 in Thursday's semi-final, Czech left-hander Vondrousova, the world No.42, is in line to become Wimbledon's first-ever unseeded women's champion.


The first non-seeded women's finalist for 60 years since Billie-Jean King - who back in 1963 was actually still Billie-Jean Moffitt - has to get past an inspired Jabeur, 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 6-3 conqueror of Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka.


They couldn't have been two more different semi-finals.


Svitolina's emotional opener fell flat while last year's finalist Jabeur played the match of her life to roar back, just as she had done when knocking out champion Elena Rybakina in the previous round, in a thrilling contest against world No.2 Sabalenka. 


Ukrainian wild card Svitolina had entranced this year's Wimbledon with the tale of a new mother making a tennis comeback while also being an inspiring figure for her war-torn country.


But after knocking out world No.1 Iga Swiatek in the quarter-final, the fourth grand slam winner she had beaten, Svitolina could find no more miracles. Looking weighed down she was dominated by Vondrousova.


A French Open finalist in 2019 when she lost to Australia's Ash Barty, two surgeries for wrist injuries had played a big part in the Czech not reaching another grand slam quarter-final since.


But here she was back to her striking best, even though prior to this year she had only ever won one match at Wimbledon. She showed no mercy to the player she had hailed beforehand as a "superwoman".

 

Svitolina never gave up, pulling back to 4-3 from four down in the second stanza, but Vondrousova regrouped to seal the win in 75 minutes.


"It's crazy that this is happening," sighed Vondrousova, while a disappointed Svitolina, who'd been watched by Vadym Prystaiko, Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, in the Royal Box, was tearful as she said she hoped her efforts would help Ukrainians fight for their dreams.


It was also a remarkable comeback by Vondrousova, who as a tourist watching her friend play at the last Wimbledon still had her racquet wrist in plaster. 


"I didn't play for almost six months, so it was very tough," she said.


"I'm just so grateful to be here. Clay or hard, maybe it's possible. But grass was impossible for me."

In the second semi, the ever-popular Jabeur was one point away from going a set and 5-3 down, but rallied in dazzling fashion as Sabalenka faltered, missing out on going to world No.1 with this defeat. 


"I'm going for my revenge. I have lost to Marketa twice this year. We're both hungry to win and both win our first grand slam," she said.


As for the vast expectations on her as a potential first woman winner from north Africa, she smiled: "The good thing is they always tell me, win or lose, we love you. 


"I'll always try to remember that. But there is one goal, and I'm going for it. Hopefully, I can make history, not just for me but for Africa."


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