Marketa Vondrousova made a triumphant trip into her second career Grand Slam final Thursday with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Elina Svitolina in the Wimbledon semifinals.
In the all-unseeded affair, the lefty Vondrousova took 1 hour and 15 minutes to defeat Ukraine’s Svitolina, who was playing only her second Grand Slam event since her return from maternity leave in April.
Vondrousova had to fend off a second-set comeback by Svitolina to prevail and level their head-to-head at three wins apiece. Svitolina rebounded from 4-0 to 4-3 before Vondrousova regrouped to take the final two games of the match.
"Crazy," Vondrousova said in her post-match press conference. "It was a very tough match. She was coming back. She was playing some good tennis. I'm just very happy that I stayed focused and I stayed in my head. I'm happy with the way I finished it."
Next up: Vondrousova will face No.6 seed Ons Jabeur in Saturday's final. Jabeur made her second straight Wimbledon final with a comeback win over No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka in the day's second semifinal.
Vondrousova and Jabeur are tied 3-3 in their overall head-to-head record, but Vondrousova has beaten Jabeur in both of their meetings this year, at the Australian Open and Indian Wells.
No seed, no problem: Vondrousova was also unseeded when she made her previous Grand Slam final as a 19-year-old at 2019 Roland Garros, where she finished runner-up to Ashleigh Barty.
By reaching another Grand Slam final as an unseeded player, the 24-year-old Vondrousova becomes the first unseeded Wimbledon finalist in the Open Era (since 1968).
"[A previous Grand Slam final] can help you also on the way," Vondrousova said. "You know what to do. You know you have to have good people around you. Definitely it can help. I mean, I'm a bit older now also. I think I'm a bit different person. I'm just very happy to be through this again."
The World No.42 Vondrousova is the second-lowest-ranked player to reach the Wimbledon final since the WTA rankings began in 1975. Serena Williams was ranked No.181 when she reached the 2018 Wimbledon final (seven-time champion Williams was seeded No.25 that year).
Vondrousova is the fourth Czech woman to reach the Wimbledon final, joining Jana Novotna, Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova. She is also the sixth left-hander to make it this far.
Return to form: Vondrousova rose to a career-high ranking of No.14 shortly after her 2019 Roland Garros final, and she won the silver medal in singles at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, but she has seen her career consistency hampered by frequent injuries. She missed six months of action last year alone with a wrist injury.
But the Czech has always been a dangerous opponent when healthy, and she demonstrated her peak form during this event. Before her win over Svitolina, Vondrousova beat four seeded players in a row to make the semifinal: No.12 Veronika Kudermetova, No.20 Donna Vekic, No.32 Marie Bouzkova and No.4 Jessica Pegula.
"After everything I've been through, two surgeries, it's not always easy to come back," Vondrousova said. "You don't know if you can play at this level and if you can be back at the top and back at these tournaments. I just feel like I'm just grateful to be on a court again, to play without pain. I'm just really grateful for it.
"When I saw the draw, it wasn't easy. I was like, 'Let's try.' I beat Kudermetova, Vekic. They are great on grass. I was like, 'OK, maybe, you know, I'll get better and I can do something here.' For me, it's really crazy this is happening. But I think anything can happen in tennis."
Grass surge: Before this tournament, Vondrousova had not posted impressive results on grass, with a 4-11 career win-loss record on the surface. But her effective left-handed service placement and her variety, epitomized by her excellent drop shots, served her well during a breakthrough fortnight.
"I didn't play many matches on grass before," Vondrousova said. "My best [Wimbledon] was second round. For me, when it was clay or hard, maybe I would say, yeah, maybe it's possible. But grass was impossible for me. It's even crazier that this is happening."
Match breakdown: Vondrousova was more effective behind her first serve, winning 74 percent of those points while Svitolina won less than half of hers. Vondrousova had 22 winners to Svitolina's nine, while also hitting only one more unforced error than the Ukrainian.
Vondrousova took control of the first set by breaking Svitolina for 4-3 with a blistering backhand service return. Two games later, Vondrousova fired a forehand passing winner to reach set point, which she converted after a wide forehand by Svitolina.
Vondrousova led 4-0 in the second set and had a 40-0 lead in that game to reach 5-0. But Svitolina was prepared to pull off another three-set win, as she had done over Victoria Azarenka and World No.1 Iga Swiatek in the preceding rounds, and she drew errors from Vondrousova to reach 4-3.
However, three errors and a double fault by Svitolina in her next service game halted her momentum, as Vondrousova broke again for 5-3. Serving for the match, Vondrousova slammed her fourth ace of the day at 30-30 to reach match point, and another unreturnable serve sealed her victory.