WIMBLEDON (England aEUR") Too nervous to wave, Elena Rybakina entered the Centre Court sun before the Wimbledon final Saturday. She kept a firm grip on the black-and red straps of her racket bag, which was slung over the shoulders.
There was no wave. She didn't even look around. It was her first match in a Grand Slam title match. Her play also showed some jitters.
After nearly two hours of swinging hard and lots of sprinting, she won the All England Club championship with a 3-6 6-2, 6-2 win over Ons Jabeur aEUR", the first singles trophy at a major tournament in Kazakhstan.
Rybakina's response was muted, with a slight sigh and a hint smile.
The 23-year old said that she was happy that the process had ended, because "really, I've never felt anything like this."
Born in Moscow, she has been representing Kazakhstan since 2018, when the country provided funding to help her tennis career. Wimbledon has been discussing the topic of the switch because it prevented all Russian and Belarusian players from entering the tournament due the conflict in Ukraine.
Since 1975 when the WTA computer rankings were created, only one woman has been lower than the No. 23 Rybakina won Wimbledon aEUR' Venus Williams 2007 at No. 31 although she was No. 1, and had already won three of her five career Wimbledon trophy.
Rybakina defeated No. 2 with her powerful forehand and big serve. The No. 2 ranking Jabeur used her varied style with its mix of spins, slices and spins to stop the 27-year old Tunisian's 12 match winning streak on grass courts.
Rybakina said to Jabeur, "You have an incredible game, and we don't have anyone like that on tour," before adding this: "I ran so much today, so I don’t think I need more fitness."
Jabeur was also participating in her first Grand Slam final.
"She deserved it. Jabeur said, "Hopefully next time will not be my." Her exuberance on court and personality off of it earned her the title "Minister Happiness."
Jabeur laughed, "Elena stole me my title," but it's okay.
In the third match, Jabeur had become more adept at reading Rybakina’s serves and was creating less opportunities for baseline power. Jabeur won a break point by drawing a squash-style forehand to the net. Rybakina then sailed a backhand long, and Jabeur led 2-1.
Jabeur turned towards her guest box and leapt and yelled.
Rybakina's mistakes mounted. With the court full open, Rybakina hit a volley into the net tape. Jabeur had just managed a brief return in netted forehand. Jabeur fell in love with Jabeur and took the first set. Arabic for "Let’s go!" She threw an elbowcut and walked towards the sideline.
Jabeur wanted to be the first Arab woman or African woman to win the Slam singles title during the professional era. This date back to 1968.
"I love this tournament so very much. It makes me feel very sad. It's tennis. Jabeur stated, "There is only one winner." "I am really happy that my country is trying to inspire many generations. "I hope they are listening."
Rybakina, who beat Serena Williams last year at the French Open, finally got her first break opportunity to start the second set. Jabeur missed a forehand and Rybakina went up 1-0. Rybakina quickly led 5-1 after saving four break points in her next two service games.
Jabeur is the leader of the women's tour, with 13 wins in three-setters. Rybakina was stronger in the decider.
She broke again to start the third and was up 3-1.
Jabeur had to learn how to reduce her mistakes. She was down 3-2 in third set, but came very close to changing the outcome. A drop shot and a lob to love-40 on Rybakina's serves earned her a pair of points.
Rybakina was able to erase that trio of break points, and he won the game with a few 119 mph serves. Rybakina broke again quickly after the hold. She was now just one game away from the biggest win of her career aEUR", and she got to serve.
The game started with Rybakina's red racket hitting 117 mph. Jabeur failed to make a return.
Rybakina can quickly forget any apprehension or unease. Soon Rybakina was walking over the green wall between front-row seats so she could go through the stands to hug her coach, sister, and other family members.
She was and will always be a Wimbledon champion.