There was a time when the 2020 Tokyo Olympics weren’t meant to be for Marketa Vondrousova—that is, until the crafty Czech unleashed her full arsenal to take control of her destiny and guarantee herself a place on the podium with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 4 seed Elina Svitolina.

The 2019 Roland Garros runner-up reeled off 11 of the final 13 games to roar into the final of a tournament she nearly didn’t play after just 64 minutes in Ariake Coliseum. Rival Belinda Bencic awaits after the No. 9 seed triumphed over Elena Rybakina in three thrilling sets.

Vondrousova was undeniably a controversial entrant into the Olympics at the start of the week; the Czech lefty had ostensibly played a sinister hand when she used a protected ranking to bump fourth-ranked countrywoman Karolina Muchova off the team. Where Muchova has enjoyed a career-best season as one of the few women to reach multiple major quarterfinals in 2021, Vondrousova recently dropped out of the Top 40, having failed to defend her Roland Garros points from two years prior.

Ironically, the global pandemic and subsequent ranking freeze has largely kept her from applying her that peak rank of No. 14, something she opted into after a 2019 wrist surgery unexpectedly shut down her season.


WATCH: Vondrousova's Olympic hopes had seemingly gone up in smoke after falling early at Roland Garros.


Once in the draw, the 22-year-old quickly proved she hadn’t come to Tokyo for a typical Olympic experience. Stalking the court with her signature crooked visor and knowing smirk, she battled past the likes of former world No. 4 Kiki Bertens and Mihaela Buzarnescu before stunning medal favorite and national icon Naomi Osaka in straight sets.

She avenged a Roland Garros defeat to Paula Badosa in the quarterfinals—the Spaniard ultimately retired due to heat illness—and continued her dominant form against Svitolina, whom she’d decisively beaten in Rome last fall.

Seamlessly translating her tremendous variety onto Tokyo’s hard courts, the unseeded Czech emerged from an early exchange of breaks to ease through the opening set and sweep the second, striking 15 winners while drawing 29 errors from her overawed Ukrainian opposition.

Vondrousova has only dropped one set all week at the Olympics.

Vondrousova has only dropped one set all week at the Olympics.


What once appeared a cynical move—arguably at odds with the Olympic spirit itself—has turned into a stroke of genius for Vondrousova, assuring a career-defining result and proving the efficacy of the protected ranking in one fell swoop.

Svitolina, by contrast, has often fallen short of the proverbial podium in her career, but will have one last shot at a medal against a likely demoralized Rybakina in a play-off for bronze.

The Gold Medal match between Vondrousova and Bencic will be a rematch of a three-setter the former won earlier this year in Miami, and the ultimate comeuppance for anyone who doubted whether she belonged at the Olympics in the first place. Whether it’s gold or silver for Vondrousova, however, it’s clear that the Czech—to borrow a Twitter trend—has already won.