Wondrous Vondrousova ends Svitolina's run to reach Wimbledon 2023 final | Tennis News - Hindustan Times
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Wimbledon 2023: Wondrous Vondrousova ends Svitolina's run to reach first Grand Slam final

By, Mumbai
Jul 13, 2023 11:11 PM IST

The Czech player beat Svitolina to become the first unseeded women’s singles finalist at Wimbledon in the Open Era

Much of the talk ahead of the Wimbledon semi-final between Marketa Vondrousova and Elina Svitolina centered around the latter. After all, just three months after having a baby and returning to the tour, Svitolina had reached the last four with a victory against world No. 1 Iga Swiatek. It was, perhaps, the most compelling story at SW19 this year.

Wimbledon - Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova celebrates winning her semi-final match against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina(REUTERS)
Wimbledon - Czech Republic’s Marketa Vondrousova celebrates winning her semi-final match against Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina(REUTERS)

Of the two, though, it was only Vondrousova who had the distinction of winning a Grand Slam semi-final. The 24-year-old, who finished as runner-up to Ash Barty at the 2019 French Open, was on a fairytale run of her own and on Thursday, she won 6-3, 6-3 to become the first unseeded women’s singles finalist at Wimbledon in the Open Era.

In the final she will face Ons Jabeur, who staged a remarkable comeback victory against World No.2 Sabalenka, winning 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-3, to reach her second successive Wimbledon final.

Vondrousova, ranked 42, and Svitolina, ranked 76, had faced each other five times earlier, with the Ukrainian leading their head-to-head 3-2. But a crucial factor was that Vondrousova had won their last two meetings in straight sets, dropping just seven games in the process.

On Thursday, both players started confidently to be level at 2-2 in the opening set. But that’s when Vondrousova made her first move as three consecutive breaks of serve followed. The left-hander, whose best result at The Championships in four previous appearances was a second-round finish in 2021, showed her full bag of tricks to rattle Svitolina and run away with the first set in quick time.

Despite her lacklustre record on grass, it was evident once again how well-suited Vondrousova’s game is for the surface. While Svitolina kept looking for power, her opponent used drop shots and sliced groundstrokes to devastating effect.

Leading 4-0 in the second set, it seemed Vondrousova would close out the match in a hurry, but Svitolina ended up breaking twice herself to get back on serve at 3-4. It was the first time in the match that Vondrousova was under real pressure. In the quarter-finals against fourth seed Jessica Pegula, she was in a similar situation at 1-4 in the decider. And just like she did in that match, clinching five consecutive games to emerge victorious, she showed incredible grit to get the job done again.

“She (Vondrousova) is very tricky,” Pegula had said after her defeat. “She doesn’t give you a lot of rhythm. Obviously, the lefty serve. Her composure is very much the same all the time. You don’t really know if she’s bothered or fired up or negative.”

There’s a lot to like about the player from the Czech Republic, a country that’s produced many female tennis champions like Martina Navratilova, Hana Mandlikova, Jana Novotna, Petra Kvitova and Barbora Krejcikova. Apart from the natural advantage of a left-hander’s serve, Vondrousova has immense versatility in her game. The former junior world No. 1 has always been known for the deft touch she possesses, but this year at Wimbledon she’s picking her moments with the precision that’s needed.

There have been a number of hurdles in Vondrousova’s young career. In 2016, she was sidelined for six months with an elbow injury. In 2019, a month after reaching the Roland Garros final, she missed six months again due to surgery on her left wrist. And in 2022, she sat out for half the year yet again because of another wrist surgery. In between all of this, she managed to bag the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics but it’s only now that things seem to be truly falling into place for her.

“I can’t believe it, I’m just very happy,” said Vondrousova on-court after reaching the Wimbledon final. “It was a very tough match. There were crazy nerves, I was nervous throughout… you just have to stay focussed and fight for every game. I didn’t play for six months last year, you never know if you can be at that level again. I’m just so grateful to be here and to be healthy.”

Vondrousova will be the underdog against Jabeur but she will have belief… to continue her dream run and cap off a truly wondrous fortnight.

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