Elena Rybakina beat Ons Jabeur to win the Wimbledon singles title Saturday, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, giving the native Russian the sport’s most prestigious championship a little more than two months after tournament organizers barred players representing Russia from participating.
Rybakina, who began representing Kazakhstan four years ago after the former Soviet republic agreed to fund her career, overpowered Jabeur, who faltered and succumbed to inconsistency after taking an early lead.
Rybakina, 23, was nervous and shaky early on, missing seemingly easy rally balls long and struggling to get her dangerous first serve into the court, but she settled down as the match stretched on. Once she found her rhythm, Jabeur had few answers.
It was Rybakina’s first Grand Slam title and the first for a singles player representing Kazakhstan, which has recruited several men and women from Russia to represent it in tennis in the last 15 years, financing their development as part of an effort to make the country more appealing to the West.
It was a match that was never going to lack for a story no matter who won.
Jabeur, a 27-year-old from Tunisia, was the first Arab and the first African woman to reach the Wimbledon final, and the first Arab woman to make any Grand Slam final. She is Muslim and the match fell on, Eid al-Adha.
Rybakina told the Centre Court crowd that it had been an honor to play in front of the royal box. She also thanked Bulat Utemuratov, the billionaire who is the president of the Kazakhstan Tennis federation for believing in her.
23 years old. Wimbledon champion. 🇰🇿
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) July 9, 2022