We started talking about a ‘Big Three’ in women’s tennis of Iga Suitek, Aryna Sabalenka and last year’s champion Elena Rybakina — but it will now be a ‘Big Four’ if Ons Jabeur wins the Wimbledon title on Saturday.
The Tunisian lost in the final a year ago and also at the same stage of the US Open but has since worked a lot with her mental coach Melanie Maillard.
I think even if you lose, it’s very helpful to be in the final to experience the day. It’s a different feeling — the locker room is empty, you’re thinking ‘one more win and you’re a major champion’.
This is a big moment and often some players get overwhelmed by it. So it is very important to be in such a situation before. Jabeur’s opponent Marketa Vondrosova has also lost a Grand Slam final — at Roland Garros in 2019 and the 2021 Olympic final in Tokyo.
You learn about yourself by losing the finals. Ones had a Venus rosewater dish as a screensaver on his phone. She comes from a small country and she stands for women – especially Arab women – and many people on the continent are inspired by her.
Saturday’s final will feature the tricky pairing of Once Jabeur and Marketa Vondrosova.
Both women will be looking to follow in the footsteps of last year’s winner, Elena Rybakina
Ons loves to entertain when he’s on the court, though he’s doing that less now and more focused on winning. The crowd loves him.
The whole of Africa is behind him. I don’t want to play with that pressure, so if I were his coach I wouldn’t bring it up. Keep it micro thinking and focus on his game plan and be clear about strategy.
Jabeur has a really compact stroke and an accurate serve that is rich on grass. At 5ft 6in, he’s got good balance and moves really well. Both of these players can be at the back and on defense but they chase winners and steal points.
He is playing less slices and drop shots and more straight tennis. His forehand is a great asset, his backhand is deep down the line. She absorbs energy well — as she has shown in defeating Petra Kvitova, Rybakina and Sabalenka — but this match is more about building her own momentum.
Owens lost the first set of his last three matches but came back to win. He will be full of confidence. And he is the clear favorite here. She played well against Paes but Vondrosova is a different challenge.
It would be an outrageous story if the Czech player won. He had won a total of four matches on grass prior to this tournament and was unseeded! This surface is so unique. Someone has obviously convinced him that his game is suited for grass.
I watched her quarterfinals against Jessica Pegula and the first set was a masterclass in court craft. He hit a slice and then Pegula found rhythm in the second set to make it a set all.
Marketa Vondrosova had won only four matches on grass before the start of the tournament
He still holds the unbeaten record on grass with 10 wins and 11 losses before the final
In the decider, Vondrosova trailed 4–1 and saved a point for 5–1. I have never seen such a change. A player goes from this craft and disruptive ability – perfect tennis with variation – but then finishes with all-out aggression to win the last five games.
They are two of the most skilled players in the game and have more unpredictability because they both have a great Plan A and Plan B. Vondrosova uses her left-hander very well.
He uses his spin well and the grass takes that cut serve very well. The crowd will be on Jabeur’s side because they love his style, personality and his story. It was similar to Vondrosova’s semi-final when fans on center court were cheering on Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.
So he’s already gone through the spectacle of cheering on his opponent. He blocked it well.
Svitolina tied the knot with the semi-final moment – perhaps she was mentally exhausted. Vondrosova played with freedom in that match.
So tennis is governed by many emotions. Will Vondrousova be overwhelmed by the moment? Will he be overwhelmed by Ons’ consistent and purposeful play?
The entertaining Tunisian Jabeur has become a big crowd favorite with the Center Court fans
The world number 6 is on track to become the first African woman to win a Grand Slam title
A quick word about Christopher Eubanks, my son Brandon Holt’s longtime practice partner.
He lost qualifying here four times and it took him five years to break into the top 100. Now he is likely to qualify for the US Open in New York.
Chris had everything but consistency and faith. It couldn’t happen to a nice guy, he’s got a great smile and it’s a story of perseverance.
But, he is four points from knocking out Daniil Medvedev! He was financially broke for five years… now he’s going to be a millionaire this year. It’s a wonderful story of holding on and making your dreams come true.
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