Wimbledon 2022 Day 13: Rybakina lands first major title

 - Dan Imhoff

The 17th seed denies world No.2 Jabeur in three sets in historic first for Kazakhstan

Elena Rybakina Wimbledon 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Elena Rybakina’s journey from widely touted talent to the youngest Wimbledon women's champion since Petra Kvitova 11 years ago is complete following a historic victory over world No.2 Ons Jabeur.

In her ninth career final, Rybakina’s 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory made her the first player representing Kazakhstan to secure a major singles trophy.

In the first Wimbledon women’s decider in the Open era to feature two first-time Grand Slam finalists, Rybakina emerged triumphant on the back of 29 winners, a shake of the head in disbelief offered towards her jubilant team as she paused to process her one-hour, 48-minute victory.

“I’m actually speechless because I was super nervous before the match, during the match and I’m honestly happy that it finished,” Rybakina said.

“Really I’ve never felt something like this… I want to congratulate Ons for the great match and everything you achieved. It’s amazing.

“I think you’re an inspiration not just for the young juniors but for everybody. Really you have an amazing game. I don’t think we have someone like you on tour. It’s a joy to play against you. I ran today so much so I don’t think I need to do fitness today.”

A year ago, the 27-year-old Jabeur declared “I’m coming back for the title” after her quarter-final defeat to Aryna Sabalenka.

The first Tunisian, Arab and African woman in the Open Era to reach a Grand Slam final, she fell just one set shy of delivering on her word.

“I want to congratulate Elena. She played amazing. Her and her team, great job, she deserved this,” Jabeur said.

“I mean Elena stole my title but it’s OK. I love this tournament so much. I feel really sad but its tennis and there’s only one winner.

“I feel really happy that I’m trying to inspire many generations from my country. I hope they’re listening.”

The powerful, free-swinging Rybakina had clocked 49 aces en route to the final and her second of the match could not have come at a better time as it sealed the second set and ensured this year’s women’s champion at Wimbledon would come down to a one-set shootout.

A break in the opening game of the third set continued the No.17 seed’s barnstorming charge to the finish line but her moment of truth arrived four games later.

From triple break point down, Rybakina maintained her aggression in the face of a late surge.

A forehand drop shot narrowly faded wide and cost Jabeur dearly as she failed to convert and stared down a 2-4 deficit.

Steely to the end, Rybakina never blinked again.

When Jabeur’s final backhand floated wide it drew a mere puff of the cheeks from the new champion, a release of those pent-up nerves and a subtle acknowledgement her race was finally won.

From a set down, the younger challenger had backed up her straight-sets semi-final dismissal of 2019 champion Simona Halep resoundingly.

She became the 12th first-time women’s Grand Slam champion from the past 21 majors.

“I can't believe still. Maybe one day, in a few days, I sit down and I realise what I did,” Rybakina said. “But for now I'm super proud of myself. Of course of my team and everybody who worked with me. It's been tough, but I think we made it all together… Not going to lie, today I was too stressed out.

“I think I didn't enjoy it as much as I should maybe. I enjoyed more [the] semi-final. I don't know why. I played also very well that match.

“I think that I'm going to enjoy for sure maybe tomorrow, maybe when everything is going to be calm. I'm going to be around my close friends, family. For sure this I'm going to remember all the memories on this day.”