Ten women who had successful — and sometimes unexpected — runs at Wimbledon

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LONDON — Marketa Vondrousova has always loved Wimbledon. So much so that she even attended the tournament as a fan in 2022 when a wrist injury sidelined her from competition.

It just, in her mind anyway, had never loved her back.

During her four previous times competing at the All England Club, she had never advanced past the second round. And even that was just once. In fact, Vondrousova had never played well on grass anywhere, recording just a 2-10 record on the surface before this season. She had such low expectations for herself at what she considers the most famous of tennis tournaments that she had her husband stay at their home in Prague to watch their cat instead of attending the event in person to cheer her on.

But on Saturday, Vondrousova’s love for Wimbledon was no longer unrequited. Already the first unseeded woman in the Open era to advance to the final at the All England Club, the 24-year-old made even more history by winning the title with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Ons Jabeur, as the Princess of Wales, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Andrew Garfield, Lin-Manuel Miranda and even her husband looked on at Centre Court.

“I don’t know what is happening,” Vondrousova said moments later. “After everything I’ve been through, I had a cast last year at this time, so [it’s] amazing that I can stand here and hold this [trophy]. Tennis is crazy.”

Having entered Wimbledon ranked No. 42, Vondrousova now leaves as the world No. 10 and a champion at a place she never expected. Clearly still surprised at what had just transpired, she wasn’t entirely sure how she would celebrate, but did say she would be taking her coach to get a tattoo on Sunday to commemorate the occasion — he promised her he would if she won a major title — and maybe with a triumphant beverage.

“I think I’m going to have some beer,” she said to the delight of the crowd. “It’s been an exhausting few weeks.”

While Vondrousova was the only one lifting the Venus Rosewater Dish on Saturday, she was far from the only woman who had a successful Wimbledon. Here are the other winners from the fortnight.

Ons Jabeur

She didn’t earn the title, but she had three unbelievable fight-from-behind victories over three Grand Slam champions throughout the fortnight, and now has played in two consecutive Wimbledon finals. Jabeur was the overwhelming fan favorite in the final, and those in attendance showered her in cheers during the match and even well after it was over.

The 29-year-old, who has now lost in all three of the Grand Slam finals she has played, fought back tears as she told the crowd it was the most painful loss of her career, but still provided a moment of her trademark fighting spirit before she left the court: “I promise I’ll come back one day and win this tournament.”

The 28-year-old returned from maternity leave in April, and was a wild card (literally and figuratively) at the tournament. She made a surprise run to the quarterfinals at the French Open last month, in the first Grand Slam of her comeback, and took it a step further at the All England Club. Svitolina defeated four major champions en route to the semifinals.

“I think she’s a more complete player now,” Caroline Wozniacki, who will be making her competitive return next month after having two children, said. “What I’m most impressed with is her mentality, the way she’s playing freely on the court. I think it’s great, it’s awesome to see she took a break and is able to play at this level and it just seems she is enjoying the sport a lot more and is more aware of herself and the game.”

Svitolina has been outspoken about the war in her home country of Ukraine, and she said she was playing for much more than herself. She dug deep in back-to-back matches against Victoria Azarenka and Iga Swiatek and found another level. Svitolina said she was most proud of the “fighting spirit” she displayed throughout.

She ultimately lost in the semifinals to Vondrousova but she was one of the most compelling storylines of the entire tournament — and continued her incredible rankings rise. Ranked outside the top 1000 in April, and arriving in London at No. 76, Svitolina is now No. 27 in the world.

Iga Swiatek

When a player is the world No. 1 and has won four major titles, it might sound odd to declare them a winner for a quarterfinal finish, but such is the case for the 22-year-old Swiatek. Still with limited experience on grass and after withdrawing ahead of her semifinal match at Bad Homburg with a stomach illness, Swiatek had the best result of her career at Wimbledon by reaching the last eight. She also notched one of the most impressive comeback wins of her career over Belinda Bencic in the fourth round.

Swiatek said that victory gave her “belief” that she was improving on the surface. “I’m just happy that I won it because it feels I’m going the right direction,” she added.

And, perhaps above all, she managed to hold on to the top ranking — for now anyway — after Aryna Sabalenka lost in the semifinals.

Let’s start with the obvious: Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon winner, was unable to defend her title and that was, of course, not the outcome she wanted. But Rybakina, 24, became the first defending champion since Serena Williams in 2016 to even reach the fourth round at the All England Club. Rybakina played all of her matches on Centre Court and was the focus of much attention and hype. She handled the pressure with ease until losing to a worthy opponent in Jabeur in a repeat of the 2022 final. She had also been dealing with a lingering virus for several weeks before arriving in London, leaving her tournament status in question.

“It was kind of a new challenge for me coming as a defending champion” she said. “It’s of course [a] different feeling. Actually really proud of [the] first few matches because it’s not easy. I would say that every match I played was a little bit better than the other one. I think no matter the result of today, it was a positive few weeks for me here.”

The last two American women standing, both Pegula and Keys reached the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. It was Pegula’s first time reaching the final eight at the All England Club, and she has now reached the milestone at every major. It was Keys’ second time in the quarterfinals, but first appearance since 2015.

Pegula, 29, cruised into the quarters, having dropped just one set en route, and was this close to reaching her first Grand Slam semifinal. She had a break point for a 5-1 lead in the deciding set against Vondrousova, and then everything fell apart. She couldn’t hide her disappointment after the match, but her resilient attitude and unmatched sense of humor never wavered.

“I’ll just keep working,” Pegula said. “There’s not like a clear answer for everything to prove that’s going to make me say, ‘Yes, for sure if I do this, I’m going to win a Grand Slam, make semis, make finals, whatever it is.’ There’s nothing like that. I just have to keep telling myself to put myself in good positions, keep getting better and working on things.”

For Keys, 28, it was a successful and productive grass season overall. She won her first title of the season at Eastbourne and had a nine-match win streak before falling to Sabalenka in the quarters. She rallied from a set and 4-1 down against Mirra Andreeva in the fourth round for a hard-fought victory that reminded everyone why she remains one of the WTA’s most formidable — and experienced — foes.

The 21-year-old Ukrainian had one of the most emotional victories of her career over No. 8 seed Maria Sakkari in the opening round. After being bageled in the first set, and sitting through two separate rain delays, she stormed back to win the match, 0-6, 7-5, 6-2. She fell to her knees and sobbed after she won.

“It was my 15th attempt to beat [a] top-10 player,” Kostyuk later explained in her press conference. “Yeah, that was, I had to do a check on my list. Very happy that that pressure is off my shoulders.”

Kostyuk ultimately reached the third round, her best result ever at Wimbledon, and the quarterfinals in mixed doubles.

Mirra Andreeva

It’s been an incredible rise for the 16-year-old over the past few months. After receiving a wild card at the Madrid Open and making a surprise run to the fourth round, she came through qualifying at the French Open to reach the Round of 32. Then she played even better at Wimbledon. In her first tournament on grass, she again came through qualifying and advanced all the way to the fourth round — including a win over 2021 French Open champion and No. 10 seed Barbora Krejcikova in the second round — before falling to Keys.

It seems clear, even to her opponents, that Andreeva’s future in the sport is bright.

“I think she moves incredibly well, especially from a younger player. You don’t normally see them already have the ability to get in and out of corners the way I saw her doing today,” said Keys after their match. “Honestly, I think she served better than me today. I was very impressed with her serve. Overall I think she has a very solid game. It’s obviously going to improve with time.”

It’s been a rough journey for the 24-year-old Kenin since winning the Australian Open in 2020. There have been injuries, an emergency appendectomy and a bout with COVID-19. Her ranking plummeted. This time last year she was No. 426 in the world.

But she’s made some progress this season. She arrived at Wimbledon ranked No. 128 and needed to go through qualifying to reach the main draw. She stepped up to the challenge — and then defeated No. 7 seed Coco Gauff in the first round. She followed that up with a straight-set win in the second round before ultimately losing to Svitolina in the third round. While still not as far at a major as Kenin knows she can go, it still certainly felt like a huge step in the right direction.

“It’s great to see her back in the mix,” said Pam Shriver, the former player and ESPN analyst. “She was definitely one of the best stories early in the tournament. She played so well and it will be interesting to see what she does from here on out.”

The 37-year-old retired from the sport in May of 2021 when expecting her first child. She announced she would be returning earlier this year to end her career on her own terms, and made her official comeback at Madrid in April. The 2019 Wimbledon singles semifinalist and doubles champion, Strycova made the most of what she has said is her final Wimbledon. In addition to reaching the second round in singles, she will play for the doubles title alongside Hsieh Su-wei on Sunday.

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