We started talking about a ‘Big Three’ in women’s tennis of Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and last year’s champion Elena Rybakina, but if Ons Jabeur wins the Wimbledon title on Saturday, they will now be the ‘Big Four’.
The Tunisian lost the final a year ago and was also defeated at the same stage at the US Open, but has worked a lot with her mental coach Melanie Maillard since then.
I think even if you lose, it’s very useful to have been in the final because of the experience of the day. It’s a different feeling: the locker room is empty, you have that thought of ‘one more win and you’re a great champion’.
It’s a great time and often some players feel overwhelmed by it. So having been in that situation before is crucial. Jabeur’s opponent, Marketa Vondrousova, also lost a Grand Slam final, at Roland Garros in 2019, and she, too, missed the 2021 Olympic Games final in Tokyo.
You learn about yourself by losing endings. Ons had the Venus Rosewater Dish as a screen saver on his phone. She is from a small country and is a great role model for women, especially Arab women, and many people on the mainland are inspired by her.
The crafty couple of Ons Jabeur and Marketa Vondrousova will compete in the final on Saturday
Both women will be looking to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner, Elena Rybakina.
Ons loves to entertain when she’s on the court, though now she does less and is more focused on winning. The crowd loves her.
She has all of Africa behind her. I wouldn’t want to play under that pressure, so I wouldn’t bring it up if I was her coach. Keep it micro thinking and focus on your game plan and be clear on tactics.
Jabeur has really compact shots and a precise serve that are active on grass. He is 5 foot 6, has good balance and moves very well. Both players may be behind and on defense, but they chase winners and steal points.
He is playing fewer slices and drop shots and playing simpler tennis. His forehand is a huge advantage, his backhand down the line is deep. She absorbs power well, as she has shown by beating Petra Kvitova, Rybakina and Sabalenka, but this match is more about creating her own rhythm.
Ons has lost the first set of their last three matches but came back to win. She will be full of confidence. And she is the clear favorite here. She has played well against the pace, but Vondrousova is a different challenge.
If the Czech player won, it would just be a scandalous story. He had won four total matches on grass prior to this tournament and is unseeded! This surface is so unique. Obviously, someone has convinced her that her game is well suited to grass.
I saw her in the quarterfinal against Jessica Pegula and the first set was a masterclass in court dexterity. She sliced and then hit heavy top-spin and then used the angles and hit drop shots. In the second set Pegula picked up the pace to make a single set.
Marketa Vondrousova had won just four matches on grass before the start of the tournament
Surprisingly, she still has a losing record on grass, with 10 wins and 11 losses going into the final.
In the decider, Vondrousova lost 4-1 and defended a point for 5-1. I have never seen a change like this. A player who gets past this cunning and disruptive ability (perfect tennis with variation) but then unleashes all his aggression to win the last five games.
These are two of the smartest players in the game and there is more unpredictability because they both have a great Plan A and Plan B. Vondrousova uses her left foot very well.
She uses her spin well and the grass takes that sliced serve very well. The crowd will be on Jabeur’s side because they love her style, personality, and her story. It’s similar to Vondrousova’s semifinal when fans on Center Court cheered for Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina.
So you’ve already gone through the scenario of having the crowd cheering for your opponent. She blocked it well.
Svitolina was tied up with the timing of the semifinal, perhaps she was emotionally exhausted. Vondrousova played freely in that match.
Much of tennis is run by emotions. Will Vondrousova be overwhelmed at the moment? Will she be overwhelmed by Ons’ consistent and determined play?
The entertaining Tunisian Jabeur has become a huge favorite for Center Court fans.
The world number 6 is about to become the first African woman to win a Grand Slam title.
A quick word about Christopher Eubanks, my son’s former practice partner, Brandon Holt.
He lost in the rankings four times here and it took him five years to break into the top 100. Now it is very possible that he will be seeded for the US Open in New York.
It was all there with Chris, but consistency and faith had to come. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, he has a big smile and this is a story of persistence.
But damn, he was four points away from knocking out Daniil Medvedev! He broke even financially for five years…now he’s going to be a millionaire this year. It’s a wonderful story about moving on and how your dreams come true.