Marketa Vondrousova was at the All England Club in 2022, too. Not to play, mind you, but only to be a tourist in London and to cheer for her best friend — and doubles partner — while wearing a cast on her surgically repaired left wrist, unsure of what her tennis future might look like.
They play similarly varied games, with drop shots and changes of pace. They also are a combined 0-3 in major finals. That will change Saturday, when No. 6 seed Jabeur and the unseeded Vondrousova play each other at Centre Court for the women's singles championship.
“I would say I always believed. But sometimes you would question and doubt it if it’s going to happen, if it’s ever going to happen. Being in the last stages, I think it does help you believe more,” said Jabeur, a 28-year-old from Tunisia.
She is the only Arab woman and only North African woman to participate in the final at a Grand Slam tournament.
Last season, Jabeur lost the title matches at Wimbledon to Elena Rybakina and at the U.S. Open to Iga Swiatek.
“For me, I’m going to learn a lot from not only Wimbledon’s final but also U.S. Open final, and give it my best,” Jabeur said Thursday after defeating No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals. “Maybe this year was all about trying two times and getting it right the third time.”
Jabeur needed to get through quite a list of opponents over the past fortnight.
The big-hitting Sabalenka, who won the Australian Open in January, was the fourth past Grand Slam champion eliminated by Jabeur, a list that also includes Rybakina, two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova and 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu.
Only two women in the 55-year history of the sport's professional era have won a major tournament after needing to get past that many previous Slam champs along the way: Serena Williams at the 1999 U.S. Open and Justine Henin at the 2005 French Open.
“I want to make my path worth it,” Jabeur said.
Vondrousova, who beat Jabeur twice earlier this year, also made it through a tough portion of the bracket over the past 1 1/2 weeks.
Not as tough, perhaps, but plenty tough.
Her 6-3, 6-3 win against Elina Svitolina in the semifinals came after victories against four seeded women: No. 4 Jessica Pegula, No. 12 Veronika Kudermetova, No. 20 Donna Vekic and No. 32 Marie Bouzkova.
The 24-year-old left-hander from the Czech Republic is the first unseeded finalist at the All England Club since Billie Jean King made it that far 60 years ago.
As a teenager, Vondrousva was the runner-up to Ash Barty at the 2019 French Open.
“It was just too much for me back then,” Vondrousova said.
That final came on red clay. This one will be on grass, hardly Vondrousova's preferred surface.
Before going 6-0 during this trip to Wimbledon, she owned only four career main-draw wins on grass and never had been past the second round at the All England Club.
“Grass was impossible for me,” said Vondrousova, who missed about six months of action last year while recovering from two operations on her wrist. “It’s even crazier that this is happening.”
During Jabeur's groundbreaking run 12 months ago, her cellphone carried a lock-screen photo of the Venus Rosewater Dish, the trophy given to the women’s champion at Wimbledon.
A reporter asked her Thursday what image she chose this time around.
“Can I answer,” Jabeur responded, “after the final?”
Howard Fendrich has been the AP’s tennis writer since 2002. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich