Elena Rybakina comes from a set down to win her first Grand Slam singles title… with Moscow-born Kazakhstan star breaking world No 2 Ons Jabeur twice in the second and third sets
- Elena Rybakina came from behind to win her first Grand Slam singles title
- She beat Tunisia’s world No 2 Ons Jabeur 3-6 6-2 6-2 at a hot Centre Court
- Rybakina’s appearance in the final had been seized up by Russia’s authorities
- The heat her win will now attract due to her place of birth is likely to be intense
Elena Rybakina made glorious history for Kazakhstan on Centre Court on Saturday as she won a first ever Grand Slam singles title both for herself and the adopted nation she now represents.
The 23-year-old came from behind to beat Tunisia’s world No2 Ons Jabeur, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, under a blazing sun. Yet the heat her win will now attract, through no fault of her own, is likely to be intense in the extreme.
With players from Russia and Belarus banned from attending these Championships by the All England Club – in effect, as a show of solidarity with Ukraine – Rybakina’s appearance in the final had been seized up by Russia’s authorities as a potential bloody nose for the West.
Rybakina was born in Moscow, raised in Moscow, has a home in Moscow, and this win now be claimed by Moscow, specifically by Vladimir Putin’s propaganda machine. Rybakina became a Kazakhstani in 2018 after being offered lucrative assistance to do so.
One pre-match headline on the pro-Putin Russia Today (RT) website said: ‘Elena Rybakina: Meet the Russian star targeting Wimbledon glory.’ The RT article said a Rybakina win ‘could herald a somewhat awkward moment for Wimbledon – and even the British Royal Family.’
The royals were referenced because the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, was at Wimbledon to watch the final and make the post-match presentations.
This is not the outcome the All England Club would have wanted or realistically could have expected. And at the end of a first set where Rybakina was as composed as a giraffe on a skating pond, it did not look likely.
Jabeur blew her away with breaks in the third and ninth games of the opener. Rybakina couldn’t land any of her trademark aces and made unforced errors galore.
Jabeur was hoping to make history herself as the first woman from the continent of Africa, as well as the first Arab woman, to win a Slam singles title.
But after being broken in the first game of the second set, it was her game that fell apart, and when she was also broken in the first game of the third, she too was broken.
Pre-match the president of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpischev, had said: ‘It’s nice that Elena will play in the Wimbledon final, she is our product. Of course we will cheer for her.’
The player herself had made it clear she was here to represent Kazakhstan, and that she wanted Russia’s war in Ukraine to end.
Some elements of the Russian media have been describing Rybakina as Russian, not even mentioning she now represents Kazakhstan.
One RT article said: ‘The controversial decision made by the All England Club to disinvite players from Russia and Belarus from this year’s event, which prompted fury from the WTA and ATP, was partly made with the intention of ruling out a public relations headache of celebrating a victorious Russian athlete in the midst of the country’s military action in Ukraine, for which the West expressed its contempt with a series of financial and – yes – sporting sanctions.
‘Nonetheless, a Moscow-born tennis star stands on the verge of an historic achievement on the pristine grass that the All England Club had hoped would be free from Russian influence, even if such propaganda was largely generated, and even amplified, by their own deeds.
‘The cherry on top of the saga? The Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, is set to be tasked with handing over the trophy to the winner in a moment which Buckingham Palace’s press agents will no doubt watch nervously through their fingers.’
The Duchess duly did so, which will no doubt be seized up by the Kremlinm, which is a shame for all involved.
Follow Sportsmail’s live blog for the 2022 women’s Wimbledon final between Elena Rybakina and Ons Jabeur.