Too nervous about greeting the crowd, Elena Rybakina jumped onto Centre Court ahead of the women’s final at Wimbledon.
No greeting. No glance at the stands. Her early play showed nervousness. It was quite expected since she was playing in her first career Grand Slam championship.
Then, two hours later, the Rybakina came from behind to beat Ons Jabeur 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the Wimbledon final on Saturday.
It was the first Grand Slam title for Rybakina, the 23rd-ranked 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 faint 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 it.”
Rybakina is a 23-year-old player born in Moscow. She has represented Kazakhstan since 2018. It’s after the former Soviet Union offered her sports career funding.
Because of the Ukrainian invasion, all Russian and Belarusian players were banned from the tournament.
It was the first time since 1962 that the championship match on an English pitch pitted two players in their first career Grand Slam final.
Since the computerization of the WTA rankings in 1975, only one woman ranked lower than Rybakina has triumphed at Wimbledon. It was the American Venus Williams, then 31st, in 2007.
But, Williams had already ranked first in the world and had already won three of his five career trophies at the All England Club by that time.
“You have a perfect game, and I don’t think we have someone like you on this circuit,” Rybakina told Jabeur during the trophy ceremony. I ran so much today that I don’t think I’ll have to train for a while.
Jabeur also played in his first major final.
“She deserved it. I hope next time it’s my turn,” said Jabeur. She has a strong personality on the court and joie de vivre outside it earned him the nickname “Minister of Joy.”
“Elena stole my title,” Ons Jabeur joked, “but it’s O.K.”
Rybakina relied on his powerful serve and devastating forehand to overcome Jabeur.
At the same time, the Rybakina slowed Jabeur’s winning streak to 12. As she was trying to become her country’s first national and the first African player to win a Grand Slam title.
“I love this tournament. I am so disappointed. But that’s tennis. There is only one winner, Jabeur said.
I’m really happy because I’m trying 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 dominates the circuit aces in 2022 and a penetrating forehand.
She offered a brief glimpse from the first game, including a service at 119 mph (191 km/h) on the game’s first point.
Yet, Jabeur did not take long to adjust.
Meanwhile, mistakes were starting to pile up on Rybakina’s side. A volley into the net while the broad side of the field was completely open.
A forehand into the goal after Jabeur had returned the ball to his side of the area in pain and misery. Then, after another wild forehand, Jabeur broke his opponent to zero to win the first set.
But, this match was not a long quiet river, and Rybakina pulled herself together. His serve regained its bite, while Jabeur was in trouble in his selection of shots.
The Tunisian’s forehand then dropped her. Rybakina took the opportunity to win on serve and backfield in the second and third sets.
And when Jabeur could not return Rybakina’s last serve of the match, she looked relieved before smiling shyly.
Soon after, she climbed the wall separating the court from the first row of seats before sneaking through the crowd to her team for the traditional brace of victory.
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