The Russian-born Kazakh, who rallied from a set down, landing her first serves and riding the one-two punch with the gusto of a gunslinger, scored a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over the world No.2 Ons Jabeur on a sun-kissed Centre Court. Someone in the crowd nudged Rybakina in the direction of her box. She then leisurely jogged across the court to meet with the people in her corner – coach Stefano Vukov, mentor Yaroslava Shvedova, President of the Kazakh Tennis Federation Bulat Utemuratov and her sister Anna.
“I’m speechless, never felt anything like this. Thanks to the crowd for their support. I didn’t think I would make the second week of the tournament at the start, so to be a winner is amazing,” said Rybakina after collecting the Venus Rosewater Dish from the Duchess of Cambridge, who lent to the glory of the afternoon in a canary yellow ankle-length dress.
“I also want to say congratulations to Ons for everything she has achieved. You are an inspiration not only for juniors, but everybody. There’s no one like you on Tour. I run so much today, no need to do more fitness.” At the other end of the court, Jabeur, who was looking to extend her history-making charge for the Arab and African world, sat in her courtside seat and didn’t look up. Shoulders hunched and head down.
“Congratulations, Elena and her team, great job. Elena stole my title, hopefully next time it will be mine,” the 27-year-old Tunisian said with a laugh. “I couldn’t do this without my team so thank you for believing in me. I’m trying to inspire people from my country. I want to say Eid Mubarak to all Muslims around the world.”
Rybakina’s journey has been about lateral movement, until she took the next step. Recognition locally or nationally didn’t come early for the Moscow-born, whose previous coaches included Russian pros Andrei Chesnokov and Evgenia Kulikovskaya. She switched nationalities to Kazakhstan in 2018 after they promised her financial support.
The 23-year-old, who was ranked a career-best No.12 18 months ago, has struggled with injuries and illness, including a severe bout of Covid-19. The world No.23, famously sangfroid, pushed through this week on the grass, understanding a surface that is quick but rarely true.