Kazakh Elena Rybakina wins women’s title at Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON, UK — Too nervous to wave to the crowd, Elena Rybakina jumped onto center court before the ladies’ final at Wimbledon, clutching the straps of her racquet bag slung over her shoulders with both hands.

No greeting. No gaze towards the bleachers. Her play at the start of the match showed some nervousness, which is to be expected since she was playing in her first career Grand Slam championship match.

Then, two hours later, the Kazakh came from behind to beat Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the Wimbledon final on Saturday.

This is the first Grand Slam title for Rybakina, the 23rd player in the world, in her career. And the first in the history of his country.

And even then, Rybakina remained very discreet, emitting a weak sigh of relief, and a brief smile.

« I’m glad it’s over to be honest, said the young woman, because I’ve never experienced anything like this before. »

Rybakina, a 23-year-old player who was born in Moscow, has represented Kazakhstan since 2018, after the former Soviet Union country offered her funding for her sports career. His decision was the subject of discussion during the tournament, as the All England Club banned all Russian or Belarusian players from the competition due to the invasion of Ukraine.

It was the first time since 1962 that the league game on the English lawn opposed two players who were participating in their first career Grand Slam final.

Since the computerization of the WTA rankings in 1975, only one lower-ranked woman than Rybakina has triumphed at Wimbledon — American Venus Williams, then 31st, in 2007. won three of his five career trophies at the All England Club at that time.

« You have a very good game, and I don’t think we have someone like you on this circuit, » Rybakina told Jabeur during the awards ceremony. I ran so much today, I don’t think I will have to train for a while. »

Jabeur was also participating in his first major tournament final.

“She deserved it. I hope next time it will be my turn, » said Jabeur, whose strong on-court personality and off-court zest for life has earned him the nickname « Minister of Joy. »

« Elena stole my title, joked Jabeur, but it’s OK »

Rybakina relied on her powerful serve and her devastating forehand to overcome Jabeur, known for her effect balls. The Kazakh at the same time curbed the winning streak of the Tunisian, who was trying to become the first national of her country and the first African player to win a Grand Slam title, to 12.

“I love this tournament. I am so disappointed. But that’s what tennis is. There is only one winner, mentioned Jabeur. I’m really happy, because I try to inspire the next generations of players in my country. I hope they watched the game. »

Rybakina showed all her arsenal from the start: a big serve – she leads the circuit in terms of aces in 2022 – and an incisive forehand. She offered a brief glimpse of it from the first game, including a 119 mph (191 kph) serve on the game’s first point.

Jabeur didn’t take long to adjust, however.

Meanwhile, mistakes were starting to pile up on Rybakina’s side. A volley into the net with the wide side of the court completely open. A forehand into the net after Jabeur had barely returned the ball to his side of the field. Then, after another messy forehand, Jabeur smashed his opponent to zero to clinch the first set.

It was not a smooth ride, however, and Rybakina pulled herself together. His serve regained its bite, while Jabeur struggled with his shot selection.

The Tunisian’s forehand then let her down, and Rybakina took the opportunity to win on serve and from the back of the court in the second and third sets.

And when Jabeur was unable to return Rybakina’s last serve of the match, she looked relieved, before smiling shyly.

Shortly after, she climbed the low wall separating the court from the first row of seats before slipping through the crowd to her team, for the traditional hug of victory.

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