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

WIMBLEDON, England –

Too nervous to say hello, Elena Rybakina stepped out into the sun on Center Court before the Wimbledon final on Saturday and kept a firm double grip on the black and red straps of the racket bag slung across her shoulders.

No wave. Not much of a look around. His game early on also betrayed some nerves, which makes sense considering it was his debut in a Grand Slam title match.

After almost two hours of big hitting and many sprints, he had won the championship at the All England Club with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Ons Jabeur, the first individual trophy in a major tournament for his adopted country of Kazakhstan.

Even then, Rybakina’s reaction was muted as can be, a small sigh, a hint of a smile.

“Glad it’s over, to be honest,” the 23-year-old said, “because really, I’ve never felt anything like that.”

He was born in Moscow and has represented Kazakhstan since 2018, when that country offered him funds to support his tennis career. The change has been a topic of conversation during Wimbledon, because it banned all players representing Russia or Belarus from entering the tournament due to the war in Ukraine.

Since WTA computer rankings began in 1975, only one woman ranked below No. 23 Rybakina has won Wimbledon: Venus Williams in 2007 at No. 31, though she had been No. 1 and has already won three of the five Wimbledons of his career. trophies

Rybakina used her big serve and powerful forehand to overcome No.2-ranked Jabeur’s varied style with her combination of spins and slices to stop the 27-year-old Tunisian’s 12-match winning streak, which came completely on grass fields.

“You have an amazing game, and I don’t think we’ll have someone like that on tour,” Rybakina told Jabeur during the post-match trophy ceremony, later adding: “I ran so much today, so no. Honestly, no. I think you need to exercise more.”

Jabeur was also participating in his first Grand Slam final.

“She deserved this. I hope next time she’ll be mine,” said Jabeur, whose exuberance on the pitch and personality off it have earned her the nickname “Minister of Happiness.”

“Elena stole my title,” Jabeur joked, “but that’s okay.”

By the third game of the match, Jabeur was reading Rybakina’s serves and creating fewer attractive opportunities for backline power. A squash-style forehand took a forehand into the net to earn a break point, which Jabeur converted to lead 2-1 by putting a 120mph serve into play and then seeing Rybakina hit a backhand long.

Jabeur turned to his guest box, jumped up and shouted.

Rybakina’s errors increased. A volley at the net tape with the entire court open. A forehand into the net after Jabeur barely earned a brief return. When another forehand went wrong, Jabeur broke love to take the first set, yelling “Yalla!” — Arabic for “Let’s go!” – and he threw an uppercut as he walked to the sideline.

Jabeur was trying to become the first Arab or African woman to win a Slam title in the professional era, dating back to 1968.

“I love this tournament so much. I feel very sad. But it’s tennis. There is only one winner,” Jabeur said. “I am very happy that I am trying to inspire many generations of my country. I hope they are listening.”

Rybakina, who beat Serena Williams at last year’s French Open, finally earned her first break chance to start the second set and went up 1-0 when Jabeur missed a forehand. After saving four break points in her next two service games, Rybakina broke again and soon led 5-1.

Jabeur leads the women’s tour with 13 straight-set wins this season, but Rybakina came out much stronger in the decider.

He broke once more to start the third and went up 3-1.

Jabeur needed to find a way to cut down on his mistakes and came close to turning things around as he trailed 3-2 in the third. She capitalized on a couple of points that she won via a drop shot and a lob at love-40 on Rybakina’s serve.

But Rybakina erased that trio of break points and took the game, helped by a pair of 119mph serves. Control there made it 4-2, and Rybakina quickly broke again. He was now just one game away from the biggest win of his career, and he was able to serve to do it.

That game started with a 117 mph ace from Rybakina’s red racket. It ended with Jabeur missing a return.

Any apprehension, any uneasiness, felt by Rybakina could vanish. She was soon jumping over the green wall next to the front row seats to go through the bleachers and hug her coach, her sister and others.

Now she was, and always will be, a Wimbledon champion.

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