LONDON: Ons Jabeur hopes it will be third time lucky when she attempts to become the first African or Arab woman to win a Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon on Saturday.
The 28-year-old Tunisian takes on Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, hoping to go one better than last year when she was defeated by Elena Rybakina in the final at the All England Club and lost to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek at the US Open later in the year.
Unlike her two final losses at the majors, this time world No. 6 Jabeur will start as the favorite against the left-handed Vondrousova, the first unseeded woman in the Wimbledon final in 60 years.
She has had a tough run to Saturday’s championship match, beating two-time former winner Petra Kvitova in the last 16, third seed Rybakina in the quarterfinal and then coming from a set down to knock out second-ranked Aryna Sabalenka in the semifinals.
By doing so she became the first woman to defeat three top-10 players at Wimbledon since Serena Williams in 2012.
But she said she could not afford to take her eye off the ball on Saturday, even though she is taking on a player far lower down the rankings at 42 in the world.
“I think a final is a final,” Jabeur said. “You’re playing someone, Grand Slam champion or not. I think it’s going to be very difficult.
“It can happen for both. Whoever could handle more the emotions, whoever could be more ready on the court, will definitely win that match.
“I want to make my path worth it, winning against all these Grand Slam champions to be in the final. Yeah, I’m going full in, and hopefully this time it will work.”
Only six women have lost all three of their first Grand Slam finals, although two of those — Chris Evert and Kim Clijsters — eventually made up for lost time.
Jabeur has form on her side for Saturday, with a tour-best 28 wins on grass since 2021 matching the run of former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova between 2004 and 2006.
However, Jabeur has lost twice in 2023 to Vondrousova, in the second round of the Australian Open and third round in Miami.
“I’m going for my revenge. I didn’t win against her this year. She has good hands. She plays very good,” said Jabeur of an opponent who is appearing in her second Slam final after finishing runner-up at the 2019 French Open.
Vondrousova, whose run at Wimbledon has guaranteed her a return to the world’s top 20 next week, was an injured bystander at the tournament in 2022, reduced to watching a friend attempt to qualify for the main draw.
A second wrist surgery had ruled her out for six months although her absence from the tour at least allowed her the space and time to get married.
She is the second-lowest ranked player to reach the Wimbledon final — only Serena Williams in 2018 was ranked lower at 181.
Like Jabeur, the 24-year-old Czech has had to battle hard to make the final.
She defeated four seeds in succession just to make the semifinals by seeing off Veronika Kudermetova, Donna Vekic, Marie Bouzkova and Jessica Pegula.
Against fourth-ranked Pegula of the US, she was 1-4 down in the final set.
In Thursday’s semifinal, she swept past crowd favorite Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in two comfortable sets.
“For me, it’s really crazy this is happening. But I think anything can happen in tennis,” she said.
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