In the household of Markéta Vondroušová, celebrations for 16 July were planned a long while ago. Not that she, or her family engages in prognostication, but it so happens that a year ago on this date, she tied the knot with her longtime boyfriend, Štěpán Šimek.
Straying away from her personal life, however, there was not much to cheer about in her professional realm in 2022. The tennis player was out of the court, having undergone wrist surgery only a couple of months ago.
In 2019, she surprised the tennis fraternity by qualifying for the final of women’s singles in the French Open, but was brushed aside by Ashleigh Barty. Devastated at the result, and the manner of it, she opted against even attending the celebration dinner, calling it the worst day of her career.
Worst day, but, till then.
A couple of years later, she qualified for the final of the Tokyo Olympics, and this time, her tenacity and perseverance were much better than what Barty was offered.
Yet, it was not enough. She suffered a defeat against Belinda Bencic, and with recurring injuries, Vondrousova came to terms with her career in tennis being a ‘closed chapter’, as sources close to the player recall.
Two years down the line, on a day she was supposed to celebrate her first anniversary, ‘Maky’ – her affectionately-assigned nickname, called ‘přezdívka’ in Czech – finds her nation celebrating with her, with the scale of jubilation being more resplendent than anything she has ever been a part of.
On 15 July, the 24-year-old from Czech Republic won perhaps the most prestigious accolade a tennis player could dream of, by beating Ons Jabeur in the women’s singles final in Wimbledon. She also became the first unseeded player in Open Era to become a Wimbledon champion.
As her nation celebrates the monumental occasion, The Quint collaborated with Czech Republic-based sports media professionals to know more about the player’s journey.
All in the Genes
If, and to what extent, genetics contribute to athletic prowess is up for a medical explanation. But, purely in terms of lineage, it does seem like Maky was destined to shine in sports.
Her mother, Jindřiška Anderlová, was a top-flight volleyball player, with aunt Vladimíra Boudová also being a youth volleyball champion. Her great-grandfather, František Frk was a pentathlon champion, whilst her grandfather, Vladimír Frk used to play hockey. Maky’s step-father, Tomáš Anderle was a hockey player in his time, before becoming a youth coach.
Unsurprisingly, she played a bunch of sports, and excelled in almost all of those – be it floorball, football, table tennis, or skiing. Her biological father, David Vondrouš might have been a rare deviation from the lineage, given that he did not play any sports professionally. But being a massive tennis enthusiast, he wanted his daughter to follow in the footsteps of Martina Navratilova and Jana Novotna.
With Very Little Means
From one perspective, the stars were perfectly aligned. From another, they couldn’t have been any further apart.
It so happens that Maky hailed from Sokolov – one of Czech Republic’s humble neighbourhoods, a town known as a hotbed of mining lignite, but nothing much apart from that.
Amenities were scant, and then, there were troubles at home. David and Jindřiška decided to go their separate ways when their daughter was only three years old, albeit, not before drawing up a concord – that, they will work together, and in harmony, to ensure Maky has every chance of making her mark in sports.
The Big Break
In accordance with that, she got introduced to tennis at the tender age of four, and by the time she was six, Maky was already competing in the baby leagues. One such league turned out to be a game-changer.
At a tournament in Brno, a seven-year-old Vondrousova’s talent and proficiency caught the attention of Ctislav Doseděl, a former Czech tennis player who once had a ranking of under 30.
The exposure helped her earn crucial attention, and soon, it was decided that to restrict her to a small town would mean a waste of a promising Czech talent. The Český Tenisový Svaz (Czech Tennis Association) is known to help out three prodigies from every category each year, and having beaten a plethora of players much older than her, Vondrousova got the opportunity to relocate to Štvanice – an island near Prague, offering significantly better facilities than Sokolov.
Her parents would collaborate in this journey – on one week, it would be David who stayed with Maky, and in the next week, Jindřiška and her new partner, Tomáš, would provide company to the child.
The first international recognition came five years later, when Vondrousova won a junior competition in the USA’s Florida. In 2015, she decided to move to the capital city of Prague for even improved facilities, and very soon, the decision paid dividends.
Competing in only her second WTA singles event, as a 17-year-old, Vondrousova won the 2017 Ladies Open Biel Bienne. With a singles title to boast of, alongside a prestigious national team selection for the Fed Cup, Maky had the world at her feet.
The progress did not stop there. Maky followed up the triumph in Switzerland with a quarter-final appearance in Wimbledon only three months later, before qualifying for the final of the 2019 French Open.
The Persistent Troubles With Injuries
But amid her steady climb, the mining town girl had her path occluded with mines – of the explosive kind, coming in the form of injuries.
Despite being a natural athlete since a young age, Vondrousova has had a long history of injury-related troubles. She was sidelined with an injury after the defeat to Barty, and by then, was already habituated to the feeling, having been through the process several times.
Albeit the stunning comeback in Tokyo Olympics was commendable, yet another defeat in a singles final meant that following the high in 2017, her trophy cabinet has not had new entries.
To make matters worse, Maky had to see one of her closest friends and doubles partner, Catherine Bellis call curtains to her career owing to similar troubles.
A Friend Who Returned the Favour
Nursing another wrist injury, when Vondrousova arrived at the All England Club a year ago, it was not to compete, but to support her new doubles partner and longtime friend, Miriam Kolodziejová.
As it turned out, Miriam would later play a crucial role in Maky’s triumph. Vondrousova was a part of both women’s doubles and singles this year, and in the former category, the Miriam-Maky pair qualified to third round with very little effort, winning the first couple of rounds quite comfortably.
Yet, to continue playing in both categories would have resulted in subpar performances, and, sensing her friend is on the verge of history, Miriam opted to let go of her doubles dream, with the pair withdrawing from the competition.
No Rain, No Flowers
Now that history has been written, every stakeholder in Maky’s journey have, and very rightfully so, engaged in rapturous ecstasy. Be it her parents, partners, or even the town of Sokolov – which, for a change, had produced a diamond, and not lignite.
A fan of tattoos, Maky has the words ‘No rain, no flowers’ written just above her elbow. Around twelve years ago, when she was asked about her dream following the Florida triumph, she mentioned ‘to play in Wimbledon.’
Since then, there has been rain, and she has been drenched – on occasions aplenty. And, finally, there are flowers – brighter, and more coruscating than they ever have been.
(In collaboration with David Schlegel – sports media professional from Czech Republic.)