When the chair umpire, the Frenchwoman Aurélie Tourte, pronounces “game, set, match”, Elena Rybakina does not raise her arms. She walks to her chair, barely waves to the Center Court crowd as if she’s just won a mundane first round. Saturday July 9, on the grass of Wimbledon, the Kazakh has just won the first Grand Slam title of her young career by dominating the Tunisian Ons Jabeur (3-6, 6-2, 6-2), leaving a British public speechless. who, according to legend, knows a thing or two about phlegm.
In her speech, the winner will be hardly more expressive after receiving her trophy from the hands of the Duchess of Cambridge: “I was so nervous before and during the match”, is content to murmur Elena Rybakina in her thin voice, before proceed with the customary acknowledgments.
Ironically, his presence at the All England Lawn Tennis Club this year is down to his passport alone. If she had not chosen to be naturalized Kazakh four years ago, for primarily financial reasons – the extremely wealthy local federation is chaired by Bulat Outemouratov, whose personal fortune is estimated at 3.5 billion dollars according to the Forbes magazine – the 23-year-old Moscow-born girl couldn’t have made it to the London Grand Slam.
Snub to members of the All England Club
In response to the invasion of Ukraine at the end of February by Russia, with the help of Minsk, the organizers of Wimbledon have indeed decided this year to exclude the Russians and the Belarusians individually. Throughout the fortnight, Elena Rybakina has been bombarded with questions about her country of birth. Without ever losing patience. “I’m now playing for Kazakhstan, I’m happy to represent this country, they believed in me. I played the Olympics, the Fed Cup, I already have a long career under these colors, “she repeated for the umpteenth time after her semi-final on Thursday. On Saturday, she became the first representative of her adopted country, women and men alike, to put her name on the list of winners of a Grand Slam.
As a snub to the members of the All England Club, during the final, however, Russian accents were heard on the Center Court: bursts of “davai!” (“Go!”) from the Rybakina clan. The 1.84 meter right-hander started playing tennis in clubs in the Russian capital and was even coached by one of the discipline’s pioneers in the USSR, Andrei Chesnokov. Based in Moscow according to the website of the WTA (the body that governs the women’s circuit), she said this week that she trains in Slovakia and Dubai outside of tournaments: “I don’t live anywhere”, finished by kicking Elena Rybakina, who arrived in tennis after giving up her dreams of a gymnast and skater because of her size.
Before setting foot in the London capital, the 23rd player in the world had only one victory on the surface this season. But on the grass of the All England Club, she discovered her green thumb this year, unleashing 144 winning shots (including 39 aces) in six matches, eliminating Canadian Bianca Andreescu and Romanian Simona Halep, two winners of Grand Slam.
On Saturday, her serve was on alternating current, but after a sluggish start, she was the one of the two finalists who best managed the emotions of a first, personal and national. Between two novice players at this stage – a first since 1962 in the Wimbledon final – it is difficult to make a clearer opposition of styles.
Opposition of styles
With her game full of variations, the Tunisian admired her sliced backhand, her sense of the volley and amortized in the first set. But the world number two then made the mission impossible under the eyes of Tom Cruise, being too messy and collapsing on her face-offs. On the other side of the net, Elena Rybakina unfolded a more powerful tennis . With her service as her main weapon, the Kazakh does not bother too much with tactical considerations.
When receiving his finalist trophy, tears had erased the smile usually screwed on Ons Jabeur’s face. “I feel so sad, I try to inspire the younger generations of many countries”, declared the one that her compatriots nicknamed the “Minister of Happiness”. The first player from the African continent to reach the final of a Grand Slam since the start of the Open era (1968) – and the first of all time in the Arab world – the 27-year-old Tunisian carries on her shoulders expectations as heavy as the solid silver dish she received on Saturday.
In a press conference, she then regained her relaxation and her playful nature. “I can’t wait to play my next final. I stay positive, I know I will come back and win a Grand Slam one day. This is just the start of some great things,” promised the hapless finalist, who had only one piece of advice for her unflappable Kazakh rival: “I have to teach her to celebrate a win!” »
In front of the journalists, the person concerned, she conceded that she still did not realize. “Maybe in a few days… I didn’t know what to do to celebrate, I was in shock… I didn’t manage to enjoy this final, I was too tense. Then, when asked how her parents reacted to her victory, the youthful-featured player took her hands to her face, her voice choking with long-held sobs: “You wanted me to show emotions. … ” And to sketch, finally, a laughing pout of circumstance.