Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova took inspiration from sponsor snub

Vondrousova became Wimbledon’s first unseeded women’s champion with her victory in Saturday’s final.

Eleanor Crooks
Sunday 16 July 2023 22:30 BST
Marketa Vondrousova won the Wimbledon women’s title on Saturday (Victoria Jones/PA)
Marketa Vondrousova won the Wimbledon women’s title on Saturday (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

Marketa Vondrousova cited being dumped by sponsor Nike as a driving factor behind her surprise Wimbledon victory.

The Czech emerged as one of the most unlikely champions at the All England Club and the first unseeded women’s winner with a 6-4 6-4 victory against favourite Ons Jabeur.

Vondrousova’s success was all the more surprising given her lack of pedigree on grass and a long injury absence last year following wrist surgery, and her failure to build on her run to the 2019 French Open final meant her clothing contract with Nike was not renewed.

“The contract ended last year and I didn’t play for six months,” she said.

“I was a bit sad when it finished but I was like, ‘We’re going to try to find something else, just show them I’m going to be good, I’m going to play good and we’ll see what happens now’. But I also feel like maybe that’s a good thing that drove me here.”

Vondrousova’s victory continued the extraordinary success story that is Czech women’s tennis.

She joins Petra Kvitova and Barbora Krejcikova as active grand slam champions while she will make her top-10 debut on Monday as one of seven Czech women in the top 35.

Vondrousova remembers watching her fellow left-hander Kvitova winning back in 2011 as a 12-year-old, saying: “I think I was probably on the couch eating some candy.

“Petra is also from a small club, from a small city, and she is a huge inspiration.

“I watched her win here and she is great person and girls from Czech are very supportive, we have a great relationship. Just to see they could do it, then you believe you can do it also.

“We practise in different clubs, we are not even together, so maybe there is something about Czechs.”

Vondrousova grew up in the small town of Sokolov, with her grandfather driving her to Prague for training every week before she moved to the capital by herself at 15 to develop her tennis.

“It’s a two-hour drive so we went for maybe Wednesday and Thursday and then went back home and I went to school. It’s an amazing journey,” she said.

One of Vondrousova’s first acts after she lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish was to call her mother and her grandparents back home.

She said of her grandfather: “He is my biggest fan. To see them so happy, I’m really grateful for it because there is so much hard work and he was really the most important person in my tennis career when I was young.”

Vondrousova’s best run at Wimbledon prior to this year had been in 2021 when she lost to Emma Raducanu in the second round.

Her game, though, built on touch, slice and angles rather than power, is a good fit for grass, making this victory slightly less unexpected than at first glance.

She credits an early coach and her slightness of stature for the way her game has developed, saying: “I had one coach in my home town who taught me how to slice and everything.

“I just feel like I was always the smallest one and I just didn’t have that much power, so I had to do something else to win. You can use it really well and you have many options, so that’s a great thing to have.”

While her parents were not in London, Vondrousova was able to celebrate with her younger sister and husband, who passed over cat-sitting duties to fly over for the final.

The couple were planning to celebrate their first wedding anniversary on Sunday with a special date at the Champions Dinner.

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