In a year when Russian players were banned from Wimbledon, Moscow-born Elena Rybakina rallied from a set down to defeat Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur 3-6 6-2 6-2 on Saturday to become the first player from Kazakhstan to win a Grand Slam singles title.
With Russian and Belarussian players banned from the grasscourt major following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Rybakina would have been excluded had she not switched allegiance from Russia in 2018 for better funding and support.
But even if the repeated questions about her links to Russia during the past fortnight affected Rybakina mentally, it did not have any discernable impact on the 23-year-old’s game.
In a showpiece featuring two first-time Grand Slam finalists for the first time since 1962, the lanky Rybakina lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish after another power-packed performance to become the fifth different women’s champion in as many editions.
“It was such a tough match mentally and physically, so in the end I was just super happy that it finished,” said Rybakina, who became the first woman to win a Wimbledon final from a set down since Amelie Mauresmo in 2006.
The cool-as-cucumber Rybakina celebrated the win with barely a fist pump and just a fleeting smile in her typical demeanour.
“I need to teach her how to celebrate really good,” a smiling Jabeur, who attempted to become the first African woman as well as first Arab to win a major, later told reporters.
At her news conference, Rybakina promised to show more emotion in future. But minutes later she broke down in tears when asked how her parents would react when they meet her.
“Probably they’re going to be super proud,” Rybakina said, before breaking down.
“You wanted to see emotion,” she added, wiping away tears as those present in the room burst out laughing before applauding her. “Kept it (inside) too long… ” (REUTERS)