Elena Rybakina wins Wimbledon women’s final for 1st Slam

So “unexpected” and “incredible” how Elena Rybakina found her Wimbledon title, and so “super happy” how she wanted to win a Grand Slam title at the age of 23.

WIMBLEDON, England (AP) – So “unexpected” and “incredible” how Elena Rybakina found her Wimbledon championship, and so “super happy” that she won a Grand Slam title at 23 and finished 23rd, was her immediate reaction to it. Last Saturday’s final point was as muted as could be.

She exhaled. She went to the net to shake hands with her opponent, number 2 Ons Jabeur. She allowed only the faintest smile as she looked up to take in the commotion in the Center Court guest box. No shouts of joy. No jumping in the air. No collapse on the lawn.

“I have to teach her,” the exuberant Jabeur later remarked, “how to party really well.”

It was only more than two hours after her 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over No.2 Jabeur that Rybakina was overwhelmed by the importance of it all, including winning the first individual trophy at a major tournament for her adopted homeland of Kazakhstan.

That moment of realization came when a reporter asked what Rybakina thought her parents’ reaction to this triumph would be like during a press conference filled with questions about her lack of outward language in court. They weren’t there on Saturday; she hadn’t spoken to them yet.

“Probably,” she said, her eyes filling with tears, her face flushing, her hand over her mouth, “they’re going to be super proud.”

And then, after a pause, Rybakina joked: “You wanted to see emotions!”

This was the first Wimbledon women’s final since 1962 between two players, both making their debuts in a Grand Slam title match, and Rybakina admitted to being nervous at first. Stepping out into the sunshine that filled the 100-year-old stadium, she didn’t wave to the crowd like Jabeur did. Instead, Rybakina clutched the black and red straps of the racquet bag slung over her shoulders.

And it was Jabeur who played better in the early stages, handling Rybakina’s powerful serve and groundstrokes to create a 2-1 lead.

Rybakina’s missteps increased. A volley into the net with the court wide open. A miscalculated forehand after Jabeur barely got a short return-in. When another forehand from Rybakina’s red racquet went wrong, Jabeur broke on serve to win the opening set, screaming “Yalla!” — Arabic for “Let’s go!” — and threw an uppercut as she walked to the sidelines.

Jabeur, a 27-year-old Tunisian, put on a 12-match winning streak on grass courts and attempted to become the first Arab or African woman to win a Slam singles title in the professional era in 1968.

“I’m just trying to inspire as many generations as possible,” said Jabeur, who had a photo of the Wimbledon women’s singles trophy saved to her phone for inspiration. “I hope they’re not really disappointed, but I’ll do my best next time.”

Rybakina was born in Moscow and has represented Kazakhstan since 2018 when this country offered her funds to support her tennis career. The move was a talking point at Wimbledon because the All England Club refused athletes representing Russia or Belarus from the tournament due to the war in Ukraine.

The women’s and men’s tennis tours responded by withholding all ranking points from Wimbledon, meaning Rybakina won’t get the bump she would have had any other year.

“I didn’t choose where I was born,” Rybakina said. “People believed in me. Kazakhstan supported me so much.”

Since the WTA computer rankings began in 1975, only one woman ranked lower than Rybakina has won Wimbledon – Venus Williams in 2007 at No. 31, despite being No. 1 and already three of her five career Wimbledon trophies had won.

As a second set, Rybakina, who defeated Serena Williams at the French Open last year, began to show why she’s leading the 2022 Tour in Assen, why, as she put it: “It’s effortless, the power I have.”

Their first break chance finally came after more than an hour, and Rybakina converted it to make it 1-0 when Jabeur missed a forehand. After saving four break points in her next two service games, Rybakina broke again and was soon leading 5-1.

“I didn’t play my best tennis, let’s say the second and third sets,” said Jabeur, who is leading the women’s tour this year with 13 wins in threes. “She started to get more aggressive. I think she stepped on the court a lot more and put a lot of pressure on me.”

Rybakina hit deep with her flat forehands, never quite allowing Jabeur to regain her rhythm. Rybakina started with the third punch. There was one final defining moment: Jabeur, using as many spins and slices and variety as anyone in the game, parried a drop shot and a love-40 lob on Rybakina’s serve.

But Rybakina took the next five points, aided by a couple of 119mph serves to take a 4-2 lead, then quickly broke again.

“Frustrating,” Jabeur said.

Not much later it was over.

“I did not know, what I should do. It was shocking,” Rybakina said, explaining that she was so “in shock” she didn’t hear half of what the Duchess of Cambridge said to her during the awards ceremony.

“Maybe one day you’ll see a huge reaction from me,” she said with a smile, “but unfortunately not today.”

Rybakina later admitted that she didn’t expect to make the second week of the fortnight, let alone the final weekend.

Now she is a Grand Slam champion and will always be.

“It’s hard to describe how I feel. But for sure I will always remember these two weeks, especially today,” Rybakina said. “I mean, it’s just something I’ll never forget.”

https://www.king5.com/article/sports/elena-rybakina-wins-wimbledon-womens-final-for-1st-slam/281-e6b99f46-cd0c-44d9-8b47-1f3a8b423d9e Elena Rybakina wins Wimbledon women’s final for 1st Slam

Emma Bowman

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