Elena Rybakina dominates Wimbledon despite 'strange' controversy

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·Sports Reporter
·4-min read
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Elena Rybakina is presented with the Wimbledon trophy by Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge after victory against Ons Jabeur. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Elena Rybakina is presented with the Wimbledon trophy by Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge after victory against Ons Jabeur. (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Elena Rybakina has come back from a set down to win the Wimbledon women's final, raising the trophy after winning 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 over World No.2 Ons Jabeur.

The Moscow-born 23-year-old, who changed allegiances to Kazakhstan several years ago, continued the impressive form which saw her upset former champion Simona Halep in the semi-final.

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Rybakina's origins in Russia posed something of an awkward proposition for Wimbledon organisers, who had banned players representing the nation from competing in light of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

While the talk of her Russian origin was a big talking point in the lead up to the women's final, once Rybakina got past her early nerves she showed that it hadn't affected her powerful game.

She cut a much more reserved figure than many recent grand slam winners after match point, coming to the net to shake hands with Jabeur before her opponent encouraged her to enjoy the moment.

Rybakina is also the youngest women's Wimbledon champion since Petra Kvitova in 2011 after reducing Jabeur to a frustrated wreck during the one-hour, 48-minute title decider.

"I didn't expect I was going to be in the second week of both a grand slam and Wimbledon. To be a winner, it's just amazing," Rybakina said after succeeding retired Australian Ash Barty as the new ladies champion.

"Honestly, I don't have the words to say how happy I am."

But the Moscow-born star's triumph was not without controversy as tennis great John McEnroe called her participation into question following the All England Club's ban on Russian and Belarusian players because of Vladimir Putin's war on Ukraine.

Rybakina declared her allegiance to Kazakhstan in June 2018, just after her 19th birthday, but is said to still have a home in Russia.

The world No.23 has tried to swat away questions about her defection all tournament, saying she doesn't really have a base while travelling the globe playing tennis.

Elena Rybakina faced questions about her upbringing in Russia after defeating Ons Jabeur in the Wimbledon final. (Photo by JOE TOTH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Elena Rybakina faced questions about her upbringing in Russia after defeating Ons Jabeur in the Wimbledon final. (Photo by JOE TOTH/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

"I just think it's weird because of this whole thing. I don't mean to get into politics here but she is Russian, right? It is sort of strange because of this whole ordeal of not allowing the Russians to play," McEnroe said from the comfort of his BBC commentary booth.

"I can only say that I'm representing Kazakhstan. I didn't choose where I was born," Rybakina said.

"I'm playing for Kazakhstan very, very long time. I represent on the biggest tournaments, Olympics, which was dream come true.

"People believed in me. Kazakhstan supported me so much. Even today I heard so many support. I saw the flags. So I don't know how to answer these questions."

Elena Rybakina wins Wimbledon, defeats Ons Jabeur

While Russian men's world No.1 Daniil Medvedev was among those unable to compete, Rybakina marched through the women's title for the concession of just two sets.

Rybakina also dropped the opening set in her quarter-final against Australian Ajla Tomljanovic.

But the 17th seed otherwise flattened her vanquished opponents - including grand slam champions Bianca Andreescu and 2019 winner Halep - with her deadly serve and fearless back-court power game.

Leaving a trail of destruction in her wake, Rybakina finished the tournament with an unmatched 53 aces and 161 clean winners.

Jabeur had been bidding to become first African woman to win Wimbledon and first Arab to claim a grand slam singles title.

But the 27-year-old was ultimately left to rue being only able to convert two of 11 break-point chances, looking hot and bothered on the warmest day of the championships yet.

"I love this tournament so much and I feel really sad but it's tennis - there is only one winner," Jabeur said.

"I'm really happy that I'm trying to inspire many generations from my country - I hope they're listening."

With AAP

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