ns Jabeur will have hoped and maybe even expected that this year it might different. In the end, all that was different was quite how much tougher this second successive Wimbledon final defeat may be to stomach.
For the newly-crowned champion Marketa Vondrousova, it was telling quite how quickly she collapsed to the turf after her match-winning shot found the line.
It was only a week before the Championships began at SW19 that Vondrousova turned 24. A finalist at the 2019 French Open, she was thrashed in that showpiece. Here was a second chance that a player who has been dogged by injuries in recent years thought may never come.
She became the first unseeded women’s Wimbledon finalist of the Open era. And my how she took her opportunity.
Tunisia’s so-called ‘Minister for Happiness’ Jabeur earned new admirers on these shores last summer when she took the first set in the final before eventually losing to the unfancied Elena Rybakina.
But against her Czech opponent under the Centre Court roof a year on, she was unable to even win a set as Vondrousova played some brilliantly brave tennis.
Jabeur had already been beaten by Vondrousova twice this season, and while she sought “revenge” and hoped it would be third time lucky, instead Vondrousova settled into the final quicker and looped her way to a fully deserved victory with her unconventional top-spin forehands.
It was indicative of the narrative of the first set that the very first point was a stunning lob by Vondrousova. She held for 1-0 and broke for 2-0, but Jabeur then broke back.
There were seven breaks of serve in total throughout a rather error-strewn first set, with the Czech taking it 6-4. Jabeur had won just 29 per cent of her break points, while Vondrousova had won 75 per cent. That was the story.
As unpredictable as tennis is, so often a player’s worst form of a match is very quickly followed by their best. But Jabeur was really struggling, not able to find anything like the levels she discovered by beating a slew of high-profile opponents in Aryna Sabalenka, Rybakina, Petra Kvitova and Bianca Andreescu in the previous four rounds.
She was broken in the first game of the second set when she slammed the ball into the net, but Vondrousova then fell off a notch and soon the Tunisian was 3-1 up. She had most of the spectators packed inside Centre Court willing her on with interest.
Yet Vondrousova raised her level again, firing down the line and spinning the ball cross-court to level at four games each. Jabeur leant down in anguish as she was broken for 5-4, and then Vondrousova held to love, winning the title with a slapped winner before immediately falling to the ground, as much in shock as ecstasy.
“God, this is very tough”, a tearful Jabeur admitted after the match. “I think this is the most painful loss of my career. Marketa, I know you’ve had a lot of injuries, so I’m very happy for you.”
Jabeur promised to be back at Wimbledon next year, and no doubt her conqueror will be too. For Vondrousova, it was a day to which all others may pale into insignificance.