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Princess of Wales comforts Ons Jabeur after ‘painful’ Wimbledon loss

<i>Dylan Martinez/Reuters</i><br/>The Princess of Wales (right) speaks to Ons Jabeur after the Tunisian's loss.
Dylan Martinez/Reuters
The Princess of Wales (right) speaks to Ons Jabeur after the Tunisian's loss.

By Aimee Lewis, CNN

(CNN) — Wimbledon losses are often imprinted in the memory just as much as those euphoric title-winning celebrations, so heart-breaking can losing in one of sport’s greatest tournaments be.

Ons Jabeur was the favorite to win the women’s title on Saturday with many expecting the Tunisian to become the first Arab to win a grand slam and the first African woman to do so too.

But the burden of making history proved heavy as the 28-year-old fell in straight sets to the unseeded Markéta Vondroušová. The disappointment was clear to see as the tears flowed during the trophy presentation. In the players’ box, her husband too could not hide his emotion.

The Wimbledon title is the grand slam she wants more than any other, but for the second successive year Jabeur had to settle for the runners up trophy.

“I will try but this is very, very tough,” she said as she tried to address the Centre Court crowd while wiping her eyes. “I think this is the most painful loss of my career.”

Jabeur’s reaction tugged at the heartstrings, so much so that she was comforted by the Princess of Wales, bringing back memories of when Czech Jana Novotná cried on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent during the trophy presentation in 1993. British tennis fans would also likely have remembered Andy Murray’s tearful speech after his 2012 men’s final loss.

Asked what the Princess of Wales told her in that moment, Jabeur told reporters: “Same thing after last year: to encourage me to be strong, to come back and win a grand slam, win a Wimbledon.

“Obviously she was very nice. She didn’t know if she wants to give me a hug or not. I told her hugs are always welcome from me. That was a very nice moment and she’s always nice to me.”

Jabeur revealed she cried in the locker room with Kim Clijsters, who had lost her first four grand slam finals before eventually making a break through. The Belgian ended her career with four majors.

“I felt a lot of pressure, feeling a lot of stress,” she said of the minutes leading up to the match. “But like every final, like every match I played, I was telling myself it’s okay, it’s normal. I honestly did nothing wrong. I did everything that I could.

“But, yeah, I think things take time with me. Again, I said it wasn’t meant to be this time. Hopefully I will be like the others that failed couple of times to do it and it will come after.”

Jabeur added: “So many things that I should have maybe done. Not serving well did not help. Also Markéta returns every ball. Even if I did a good serve, she was there. That didn’t help my serve much.

“My backhand wasn’t here. Again, I think playing two different players the last few matches did not help, too. Yeah, I don’t think I played good, as well. But that doesn’t take away the match that Marketa did.”

It was Vondroušová who ended up making history on Saturday, becoming the first unseeded woman in the Open Era to win the famous tournament. The last unseeded woman to reach a Wimbledon final was Billie Jean King in 1963.

Playing in her second grand slam final, the 24-year-old Czech played brilliantly on the grass and her variety of shots got the better of the sixth seed Jabeur.

Jabeur became the fifth seeded player to fall to the left-hander at Wimbledon this year, with her unpredictability proving difficult for her opponents to overcome. Jabeur particularly struggled despite having numerous opportunities to take control of the match.

It was a deserved win for a player who was in London last year as a tourist, still recovering from surgery to her left wrist.

“I’m so grateful and proud of myself,” she told reporters.

“When I was coming back [from injury], I didn’t know what’s going to happen, if I can play at that level again. I mean, this seems impossible. On grass I didn’t play well before. I think it was the most impossible grand slam for me to win, so I didn’t even think of it.

“When we came, I was just like, ‘try to win couple of matches.’ Now this happened, it’s crazy.”

Vondroušová said she would not only add to her own tattoo collection but that her coach would also get one to mark the win.

“I think I’ll choose for him,” she said. “Maybe we’ll get the same one.”

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