Wimbledon Final Features Firsts

Russian-born Rybakina brings Kazakhstan its first title
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2022 1:40 PM CDT
Rybakina Captures Final of Firsts
Tunisia's Ons Jabeur returns to Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina on Saturday.   (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Elena Rybakina resumed her rise through tennis, which was interrupted by the pandemic, on Saturday with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Ons Jabeur to become a Wimbledon women's champion. The 23-year-old, who was ranked 23rd in the world coming into the tournament, remained calm and composed throughout the match, even after falling behind early, ESPN reports. Although it didn't show, Rybakina said afterward, per CNN, "I was super nervous before the match, during the match, and I'm happy it's finished." She added, "Really, I have never felt something like this."

Both players' countries were represented in the final for the first time. After Russia, where Rybakina was born, invaded Ukraine, the London tournament barred Russian and Belarussian players from the tournament, affecting 11 of the top 100 women, per the Washington Post. But Rybakina had switched to playing for Kazakhstan, which backed her more financially, in 2018. "They believed in me," Rybakina has said. When asked at Wimbledon if she still felt Russian, per Axios, Rybakina answered, "It's a tough question." Jabeur, 27, was the first Tunisian, first African woman, and first Arab woman to reach a Wimbledon final.

In early 2020, just before the shutdown, Rybakina reaching the finals in four of her first five tournaments, winning one of them. She lifted her ranking from No. 36 to No. 17. "After corona, after this long period, it was very difficult to come back," she said Saturday, adding that she didn't practice during the lockdown. "Then some health problems like injuries, sick, allergies. It kept on happening," she said. "I was, like, very upset, of course." She began restoring her game last August. On Saturday, the 6-footer relied on her big serve while trying to catch up to Jabeur's frequent drop shots. "I ran so much," Rybakina said, "I don't think I need to do fitness anymore." (More Wimbledon stories.)

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