Elena Rybakina won the women’s singles final Wimbledon on Saturday, claiming her first grand slam title and the first for Kazakhstan.
Rybakina beat world No. 3 Ons Jabeur in three sets, coming from a set down to win 3-6 6-2 6-2.
The 23-year-old, appearing in her first grand slam final, started slowly but gradually found her rhythm and powerful serve to overcome Jabeur.
Rybakina, who was born in Russia but has represented Kazakhstan since 2018, was the youngest women’s finalist at Wimbledon since 2015 when Garbine Muguruza was 21.
But at the end of an enthralling encounter, Rybakina lifted the Venus Rosewater Dish aloft as she was named Wimbledon champion for the first time.
In her interview on court afterwards, Rybakina’s first emotion was one of relief.
“I was super nervous before the match, during the match and I’m happy it’s finished,” she told Sue Barker on Center Court.
“Really I have never felt something like this. I want to thank the crowd for the support, it was unbelievable these two weeks.
“But also I want to congratulate Ons for a great match and everything you have achieved. I think you are an inspiration for everybody. You have an amazing game. We don’t have someone like this on tour and it is a joy to play against you. I ran so much, I don’t think I need to do fitness anymore.
Rybakina added: “It’s true, I did not expect to be in the second week of a Grand Slam at Wimbledon. To be a winner is just amazing. I don’t have the words to say how happy I am.”
“But I wouldn’t be here without my team of course, so I want to say a big thanks to them. I want to say thanks to my coach, my sponsors, everyone. The most important is my parents of course, they are not here so I am very sorry. My sister is here and it is just the third time she comes on the tour to watch so I’m happy she is here. Without my parents I wouldn’t be here for sure. Thank you so much everyone.”
It took just a few games of the final for the first shock. The big-serving Rybakina, who had dropped only one set in the whole tournament before the final, was broken by Jabeur in the third game to take an early lead.
And in Rybakina’s next service game, she was forced to save numerous break points as her first set chances looked to be teetering, but she managed to stave off the energetic Jabeur.
A few games later, having held serve, Jabeur’s dogged return game and masterful deftness opened up three set points to give her the opportunity to take the first set; she gladly took them with both hands.
However, despite looking rattled in the opening set, Rybakina began the second frame strongly. Behind her own accurate returns, she broke the lively Jabeur in her opening service game to the shock of everyone watching.
Having taken an early lead, Rybakina almost gave up her advantage soon after, needing to fend off multiple break points before eventually taking a two-game lead in the set.
And, under the blue London sky and bright sun, the next few games passed with very little between the two stars.
Both had to fend off break point opportunities from their opposition to hold onto serve as they showed the skills which had blown away their opponents in previous rounds.
But, Rybakina once again broke Jabeur – who had looked so solid in the opening set – in the second set, to take a commanding 4-1 lead.
And with the set on the line, she rediscovered her usually devastating serving skills, having struggled early on, emphatically clinching the set to send it to a deciding set.
After a short break for water and for nerves to settle, the tennis continued at a fever pitch.
Rybakina once again broke the Tunisian to set the early pace, with the pair exchanging blows. And in a tight final set, it was the Kazakhstani who just got stronger and stronger, eventually claiming her first grand slam title with another emphatic service game.
Not only did she become the first player from her country to win a grand slam title, she also became the youngest Wimbledon champion since 2011.
For Jabeur, she was also looking to etch her name in the history books, having become the first Arab or African player to reach a grand slam title.
When she was asked about inspiring young players back home, she joked that “Elena stole my title but it’s ok!”
“I love this tournament so much and I feel really sad, but I’m trying to inspire many generations from my country. I hope they are listening.”