When the chair umpire, the Frenchwoman Aurélie Tourte, pronounced “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 lawn 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 barely more expressive after receiving her trophy from the hands of the Duchess of Cambridge: “I was so nervous before and during the game”contented herself with murmuring Elena Rybakina in her thin voice, before proceeding with the usual thanks.
Ironically, his presence at the All England Lawn Tennis Club this year is due 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 magazine Forbes– the 23-year-old Moscow-born young woman would not have been able to compete in 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 individually the Russians and the Belarusians. Throughout the fortnight, Elena Rybakina has been bombarded with questions about her country of birth. Without ever losing patience. “I now play for Kazakhstan, I am 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, we heard Russian accents 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 pioneers of the discipline in the USSR, Andrei Chesnokov. Based in Moscow according to the WTA website (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”ended up 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 23e world player had only one victory on the surface this season. On the grass of the All England Club, she discovered her green thumb this year, unleashing 144 winning shots (including 39 aces) in six games, eliminating Canadian Bianca Andreescu and Romanian Simona Halep, two Grand Slam.
On Saturday, her service was on alternating current, but after a sluggish start, she is 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 made people admire her sliced backhand, her sense of the volley and the amortization in the first set. Without really understanding why, the world number two then made it 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 unrolled more powerful tennis, even if with her serve as her main weapon, the Kazakh doesn’t 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 young generations from many countries”declared the one 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 beginning of very beautiful things”, promised the unfortunate finalist, who has only one piece of advice for her imperturbable Kazakh rival: “I have to teach him to celebrate a victory! »
In front of the journalists, the interested party, 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 couldn’t enjoy this final, I was too tense. » Then, when asked what was the reaction of her parents after her victory, the player with youthful features took her hands in the face, her voice choked by the sobs that had been held back for a long time: “You wanted me to show emotions…” And to sketch, finally, a laughing pout of circumstance.