Elena Rybakina Wins Wimbledon and Her First Grand Slam Title
WIMBLEDON, England — Elena Rybakina beat Ons Jabeur to win the Wimbledon singles title Saturday, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, giving a player born and raised in Russia 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.
She had a chance to draw even in the third set as Rybakina fell behind 0-40 serving at 3-2, but Jabeur couldn’t finish the game and Rybakina cruised over the finish line from there.
On the final point, Rybakina watched Jabeur, the No. 2 ranked player in the world, send one last backhand return wide and strutted to the net with barely a celebration. A few minutes later she climbed the stairs to her box to embrace her team.
It was Rybakina’s first Grand Slam title and the first for a single’s 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.
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 — the feast of the sacrifice. The holiday commemorates the story of Allah asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, as a sign of faith.
There was a time when it seemed like every year an American would play for this championship on July 4. But the sport and its calendar have shifted.
The Wimbledon final happens a week later, and American players, and those from every other country that dominated tennis for most of the last 100 years, face far more competition from places where the sport has only recently taken hold.
“I feel really sad, but it’s tennis. There is only one winner,” Jabeur said while holding the runner-up trophy. “I’m trying to inspire many generations for my country.”