Marketa Vondrousova became the first unseeded player to win the Wimbledon women’s singles title as Ons Jabeur’s wait for a major goes on.
Vondrousova, 24, is ranked 42nd in the world after missing six months of last season with a wrist injury.
But the Czech handled the nerves of the occasion better than 2022 runner-up Jabeur to win Saturday’s final 6-4 6-4.
Sixth seed Jabeur, 28, has now lost all three major finals she has played in and was in tears at the end.
Vondrousova, who came to Wimbledon as a fan last year wearing a cast after wrist surgery, fell flat on her back as the magnitude of what she had achieved sank in.
“I don’t know what is happening – it is an amazing feeling,” said Vondrousova, who beat five seeded players to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish.
After sharing a warm embrace with Jabeur at the net, she knelt on the grass again and looked close to tears as she drew the acclaim of the Centre Court crowd.
Then, as is tradition these days, she clambered up to the players’ box to hug her team and family – including husband Stepan, who arrived in London to watch the final after previously staying at home in Prague to look after their pet cat.
By contrast, Jabeur looked heartbroken as she sat on her chair with her head bowed.
“This is very, very tough. The most painful loss of my career,” said Jabeur, who had been aiming to be the first African or Arab woman to win a Grand Slam singles title.
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Vondrousova becomes ‘most unlikely’ Wimbledon champion
Vondrousova reached the French Open final as a teenager in 2019, where she lost to Australia’s Ashleigh Barty, before seeing her progress hampered by two wrist surgeries.
Clay courts have long been considered the Czech’s best surface and she admitted before her semi-final she “never thought” she could do well on grass.
But her game style – using a top-spin forehand to good effect, the ability to play with variety and regularly able to keep the ball in play – has translated to the grass courts.
Vondrousova came into Wimbledon having won only four grass-court matches in her career.
Even after winning under the Centre Court roof – which was closed because of winds predicted to reach speeds of 50mph – still owns an 11-11 win-loss record on the surface.
It led American former world number one Tracy Austin – who was working on BBC Sport’s television coverage of the final – saying Vondrousova was the “most unlikely” champion.
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Nerves get better of Jabeur
History was at stake for both players, but particularly for Jabeur, who has become a trailblazer for African and Arab women.
But the Tunisian, who was the pre-match favourite, looked overwhelmed by the weight of expectation.
While both players managed beaming smiles for the camera as they posed for the traditional pre-match photograph, the nerves associated with playing in a Wimbledon final quickly became apparent.
Jabeur seemed more stressed than her opponent in a tense opening set, even after she took an early break to lead 2-0.
She stayed rooted to the baseline as she looked to find rhythm, rarely employing her favoured drop-shot and was broken straight back for 2-1.
Three successive breaks of serve – in favour of Vondrousova – were indicative of the tension that remained on both sides of the net, but particularly for Jabeur, who saw a 4-2 advantage disappear.
Jabeur, who has an effervescent and engaging personality, is known as the ‘Minister of Happiness’ back home and usually plays with a smile on her face.
But her body language became increasingly negative, head bowed and shoulders slumping, clearly unable to compute what was happening.
After Vondrousova served out for a one-set lead, Jabeur took a short break in the locker room. When she emerged, she lost serve again before finally growing in confidence and playing more freely to move 3-1 ahead.
However, uncertainty quickly reappeared. Vondrousova broke back in the fifth game of a match which continued to provide twists and turns.
Jabeur, who lost to Elena Rybakina in last year’s final after winning the first set, has become a crowd favourite at the All England Club in recent years.
Encouraging shouts of support came her way after she lost serve again for 5-4 and, despite briefly wobbling with a double fault on her first match point, Vondrousova sealed a famous win.
“It’s going to be a tough day but I’m not going to give up. I will come back stronger,” said Jabeur, who beat four Grand Slam champions to reach another final.