Women’s tennis on trial after Ons Jabeur falls in disappointing Wimbledon final
This was not the Wimbledon final women’s tennis so desperately needed.
Marketa Vondrousova defeated favourite Ons Jabeur in straight sets to make history as the first unseeded women’s singles champion at Wimbledon.
There have been a string of surprise slam winners in a period of flux for the women’s game but Wimbledon had been the exception until now, with Czech Vondrousova taking advantage of a nervous performance from Jabeur to claim a 6-4 6-4 victory.
While this was a great moment for Vondrousova, the quality of tennis on display in an error-strewn final was a disappointing advert for the women’s game.
The ‘Big Three’ of Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka and last year’s Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina have established themselves at the top of the women’s game over the last couple of years, but the quality they bring to the court was replaced with something very different at Wimbledon.
Nerves are inevitable on such a big occasion, but champions need to find a way to handle that pressure and Jabeur cracked badly when the moment called.
She powered into a 4-2 lead into the first set, but faltered badly when the finishing line was in sight in the first set as she struggled to get the ball in the court for a long period.
After leaving Centre Court to try and compose herself ahead of set two, Jabeur showed flashes of the tennis that she needed to bring to beat the tricky Vondrousova.
Yet the 33 unforced errors she presented to her opponent was the primary reason for her defeat, with the tears flowing from her at the end due to the realisation that she had contributed to her own downfall.
Some 50 years have passed since the great Bille Jean King led the campaign for equality in tennis, with equal prize money subsequently paid to men and women at all the Grand Slam events.
Even though women only play best of three set matches and men compete over the longer five-set format, that equal prize money debate is rarely raised as tennis prides itself on an inclusive approach that is a step ahead of many other sports.
Yet comparing the standards of tennis on display in the women’s final with what we are all expecting to be an epic contest between Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz in Sunday’s men’s final would not reflect well on the women’s game.
Indeed, if you were ask 100 people who won the Wimbledon Ladies Singles title in 2023 a week from now, it is a fair bet that few will be able to offer up the name of Marketa Vondrousova.
The WTA, the female players at the top of the game and the media may need to do more to promote women’s tennis because right now, it is not comparable to the men’s game on too many levels.
Type ‘best tennis players’ in an internet search engine and the top 40 images you are presented with are all men.
Serena Williams makes the list at 41, with a few female legends of the game getting into the top 100.
The trouble is, none of the women currently making waves in tennis have the global sporting profile or even the quality on court of those who have dominated the game before them.
Selling tickets for women’s events remains a challenge, as was confirmed by last year’s woefully attended WTA Finals in Texas and unless new stars begin to make a mark beyond the tight tennis community, the women’s game will continue to struggle.
The Wimbledon final is the day when the world is watching women’s tennis and if they were tuning in for Vondrousova vs Jabeur, they will not have been impressed by what they saw.
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