It’s not the final anyone predicted but as women’s tennis has so often proved this year –– expect the unexpected.
In the build-up to the Olympics, the talk was centred around several players. Firstly, those who were absent from the tournament. The likes of Serena Williams, Coco Gauff and Simona Halep were all notable withdrawals, while Britain’s Johanna Konta was also forced to pull out after testing positive for Covid-19.
Other headlines focused around the top two players in the world –– Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka. Barty had recently won Wimbledon and Osaka was returning to action at her home Games.
Yet, after a matter of days, both of the top seeds were out. Barty was beaten in the opening round by Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo and just two rounds later, Osaka suffered defeat to Czech Republic’s Markéta Vondroušová.
The Czech only qualified for the tournament as a result of her protected ranking but is now in the final alongside Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic.
Both players are established on the WTA tour and sit inside the world’s top 50. But how much do you know about these unforeseen finalists?
Who is Markéta Vondroušová?
Still just 22 years old, Vondroušová made her name at the 2019 French Open when she reached the final. In doing so, she became the first teenager since Ana Ivanovic to reach the final at Roland-Garros, though she was comprehensively beaten by Barty.
The Czech star was an extremely talented youngster and is a former number one junior player in the world. In only her second WTA event aged 17, Vondroušová won her first WTA title at the Ladies Open Lugano.
Surprisingly, however, this has been her only triumph on the tour to date, with a series of lost finals since.
Regardless, the Czech still has bags of potential and is renowned as being one of the best returners in the game. Indeed, she had the best return percentage of any player in the world in 2019.
Vondroušová is currently ranked 41st and has struggled for consistency this year. At Wimbledon, she lost to British teenager Emma Raducanu in straight sets and was not widely favoured heading into these Games.
But Vondroušová has looked extremely good so far in Tokyo. So far the Czech’s beaten four players in the top 30, including Kiki Bertens, Paula Badosa, Elina Svitolina and of course Osaka. During these matches, she’s dropped just one set.
If the youngster can keep this form up in the final, she’ll be a very hard player to stop.
Who is Belinda Bencic?
Bencic is ranked ninth in the world but has nonetheless gone under the radar somewhat in recent years.
The 24-year-old has been on the circuit for a while now and enjoyed an impressive career –– reaching 13 WTA finals and winning four titles.
Three of these wins came on hard courts and this is clearly the surface the Swiss star feels most comfortable on.
Despite notable success on the tour, Bencic has struggled at major tournaments over the years. So far, she’s only made it past the fourth round on two occasions, both of which came at the US Open. Her best performance came in 2019, where she reached the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows.
As for form, Bencic has enjoyed a solid 2021, reaching two WTA finals in Adelaide and at the German Open.
Like Vondroušová, Bencic has also beaten good opposition in Tokyo. In the third round, she defeated French Open champion Barbora Krejčíková after recovering from losing the first set 6-1, before beating world number 15 Elina Rybakina in the semi to guarantee herself at least a silver medal.
On paper, it’s Bencic who has the higher ranking and has been in better form in 2021. But this is an Olympic final and anything can happen.