Elena Rybakina in the fourth round of Wimbledon 2022, London, UK
Elena Rybakina in the fourth round of Wimbledon 2022, London, UK | (Photo by Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Tennis | Wimbledon 2022 | Rybakina ‘shocked’ after historic Grand Slam title at Wimbledon with victory over Jabeur

By Tony Fairbairn at Wimbledon

  • Elena Rybakina [17] def Ons Jabeur [3] 3-6 6-2 6-2
  • Rybakina is the first player from Kazakhstan to win a Grand Slam singles title after a three set win over Jabeur
LONDON, ENGLAND – Elena Rybakina claimed her maiden Grand Slam title after a three set victory over Ons Jabeur at Wimbledon.

 

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Elena Rybakina [17] def Ons Jabeur [3] 3-6 6-2 6-2

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Elena Rybakina
is the first player from Kazakhstan to win a Grand Slam singles title after defeating Ons Jabeur in three sets to win Wimbledon. It was a confident start from Rybakina who held comfortably to start the match but the Tunisian responded in fine fashion with a comfortable hold of her own. Jabeur was arguably the favourite to win the title as she looked to make history for Africa and that showed in her confident free-flowing hitting as the Tunisian mixed up the pace of the rallies constantly.

That deadly mixture of slice and power saw Jabeur break in the third game as Rybakina hadn’t found her range yet as she produced a flurry of unforced errors. Jabeur threatened with the double break as she held to love to consolidate the break and used her bouncy energy to dictate the majority of the rallies. However Rybakina produced some clutch serving and precise hitting to stay within touching distance.

Jabeur continued to neutralise the rallies with her slice and in the end earned her double break with more slice and aggressive baseline play. The Tunisian broke to love in the ninth game as she secured the opening set 6-3 with Rybakina knowing she would have to improve on her 17 unforced errors that were produced.

Improve is what Rybakina did as the 17th seed controlled her power more and secured more targeted winners especially on the run. The Kazakh broke in the opening game and then produced big serving in crucial moments to save break point and hold for 2-0. Jabeur kept creating break points with good use of slice and power but Rybakina kept her at bay with some smart serving and hitting.

Shot selection was the key to winning this match and in the important moments it was Rybakina who played the better shots with clearer tactical identity. Jabeur’s forehand was slowly breaking down and Rybakina took advantage to seal the double break at 4-1. The Centre Court crowd, who was routing for Jabeur, could sense a momentum shift as Rybakina cruised through her next two service games to force a deciding set in this final.

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The crowd was desperately trying to will Jabeur on but to no effect as Rybakina continued to find the lines and tight angles as she broke at the start of the third set. As the Kazakh continued to find her range and held for a 2-0 lead, the third seed grew visibly frustrated at her box as she could sense that this match was slipping away from her. The Tunisian produced some smart serving to keep Rybakina at bay and in the sixth game it seemed as though she was going to make the much-needed breakthrough.

However with her back against the wall Rybakina played some inspired tennis to hold for 4-2 and dampen the spirits of the crowd and Jabeur. This was the turning point as Rybakina mixed up the depth and power of her shots to once again break and serve for the title.

The Kazakh held her nerve and her serve to seal a historic victory and her maiden Grand Slam title. Even though she only celebrated with a fistbump, Rybakina showed a smile that meant a thousand words as she claimed the biggest moment of her young career.

 

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Rybakina admits nerves after ‘shocking’ victory

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After the match Rybakina admitted she was ‘super nervous’ before the match as she claimed victory and admitted that these two weeks have been unexpected:

“Yes, I was super nervous. Yesterday I had a good practice. But in evening I already started to feel like I’m too nervous. In the morning also,” Rybakina said in her press conference.

“But I was just trying to tell myself that it’s a match and I already had experience. I mean, for me the worse thing, if you’re up, then you lose the match. Unfortunately I had many matches like this, so maybe it helped me a bit.

“I was trying to convince myself that it might happen again, and hopefully it’s not the last time I’m in the final. Not the first; not the last. I already did a great job with my team. With these kind of words I was trying to calm myself down.

“I have no idea honestly because we worked a lot to be here, where I am right now. But it’s so unexpectable these two weeks, what happened. It was such a tough match mentally and physically, so in the end I was just super happy that it finished. In this moment I just didn’t believe that I made it.”

Although it still hasn’t sunk in yet, Rybakina’s victory has been coming for a long time after reaching red-hot form before COVID-19 struck. After the match the Kazakh didn’t really celebrate as has become her trademark on the tour. When asked about that in her press conference she didn’t know what to do as she was shocked by winning the biggest tennis tournament in the world:

“I mean, I didn’t know what to do. It was shocking. I don’t know, maybe because I believe that I can do it deep inside,” Rybakina said.

“But same time it’s, like, too many emotions. I was just trying to keep myself calm. But, yeah, I don’t know. Maybe one day you will see huge reaction from me, but unfortunately not today. I think that I’m going to enjoy for sure maybe tomorrow, maybe when everything, like, is going to be calm. I’m going to be around my close friends, family. For sure this I’m going to remember all the memories on this day for sure. But, yeah, for now it was stressful.”

Rybakina did eventually show emotion in her press conference as she teared up about what’s going to happen when she speaks to her parents. The 17th seed spoke about how they have helped her in realising her dreams:

“I think it’s, of course, because of my parents. They always believed in me. They believed just first they wanted me to play and have fun on the court, which I always had. After, when it was tough moments, they always believed in me.”

 

Jabeur keeping positive despite not playing best tennis

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As for Jabeur it wasn’t to be for the Tunisian as she wasn’t able to keep up her confident tennis for the last two sets. However the self-proclaimed ‘minister of happiness’ isn’t getting too down on herself and after the match spoke about the positives on her way to a maiden Grand Slam final:

“No, definitely positive about it. I’m very glad with my results. I don’t regret anything,” Jabeur said in her press conference.

“I gave it all today. A final, I lose so many at the beginning, then step back and win one more. I don’t disbelieve in myself and I know that I’m going to come back and win a Grand Slam, for sure. This is tennis, and it’s part of it. I have to learn from it, definitely. But I’m very, very positive about it.

“Always happy. Like Bob Marley said, Don’t worry, be happy. You know, I really gave it all these two weeks. It’s been amazing. A lot of great memories here with the crowd, with you guys. It’s really amazing. Of course, I will leave happy, with a smile, big smile always. Tennis is just a sport for me. The most important thing that I feel good about myself.”

Jabeur’s positive mindset and overall demeanour will continue to inspire the next generation as she prepares to head back to her home country this week. The world number three spoke about how amazing the fans were at Centre Court today and gave her thoughts on what kind of reception she’ll get when she goes back home:

“It’s really amazing to see a lot of fans, not just from Tunisia but from the Arab world. I know a lot of Muslims during me playing wish me a happy Eid. Even when I was serving it was like, Happy Eid. It was really amazing to have them,” Jabeur said.

“I just try to inspire as many generation as I can. It’s very nice to play this final. I really cannot wait for more finals for me. I hope they’re not really disappointed, but I’ll try my best next time. I will go home maybe Thursday or something. I’m not sure. Our minister of sports said there is a huge surprise for me. I’m not sure what’s going to expect. I cannot wait to meet Tunisians. They’re really amazing. They always support me. I think right now I need their support to really continue and do better.”

Jabeur’s next scheduled tournament will be in San Jose on the 1 August.

 

 

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