Tennis - Wimbledon: Ons Jabeur - Elena Rybakina, the final of great firsts

Tennis – Wimbledon: Ons Jabeur – Elena Rybakina, the final of great firsts


A great first for the African continent…

Ons Jabeur will become the first African player to play in a Grand Slam final in the Open era (in singles). Three players preceded her in the pre-Open era: Irene Peacock (French Open 1927), Renee Schuurman (Australian Open 1959) and Sandra Reynolds (Wimbledon 1960). All were South African. And all of them had lost.

On the men’s side, only one African has won a Grand Slam: the “Sudaf'” Johan Kriek, winner of the 1981 Australian Open (during the defense of his title in 1982, he had meanwhile taken American nationality ).


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… But also for the Arab world…

The Tunisian will also become the first player from an Arab country (whether from the Maghreb or the Middle East) to play in a Grand Slam final. In history, only one representative of the Arab world has achieved such a feat (and even several times): Jaroslav Drobny, who triumphed at Roland-Garros in 1951 and 1952, as well as at Wimbledon in 1954, under the Egyptian banner. But Drobny was of Czech origin.

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… as well as for Kazakhstan

For her part, Elena Rybakina will be the first player from Kazakhstan – men and women alike – to play in a major final. It should be remembered, however, that Rybakina is of Russian origin, a country banned this year from Wimbledon, and that she changed nationality in 2018 for logistical and financial reasons.

Exactly like her compatriot Yaroslava Shvedova, who also became a Kazakh in 2005, a banner under which she won two Grand Slam titles in women’s doubles (Wimbledon and the US Open 2010).

Elena Rybakina serving. The Kazakh has served 49 aces since the start of the tournament.

Credit: Getty Images

Rybakina, the disturbing finalist

Two neophytes? Unheard of (at Wimbledon) in the Open era

Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina will therefore both compete in their first Grand Slam final. In itself, in women’s tennis that has been subject to high turnover for several years, the thing is not so rare: it happened no later than last year at Roland-Garros (Krejcikova-Pavlyuchenkova) then at the US Open (Raducanu-Fernandez).

At Wimbledon, on the other hand, it is much less common. And for good reason, it had never happened in the Open era: the last Wimbledon ladies’ final between two neophytes dates back to 1962 (victory of the American Karen Hantze over the Czech Vera Sukova).

In the Open era, still, there have been only two Wimbledon ladies’ finals pitting players who have not had any Grand Slam records against each other: Jana Novotna against Nathalie Tauziat in 1998 and Marion Bartoli against Sabine Lisicki in 2013. But in the two cases, one of the two (Novotna and Bartoli) had already played at least one final.

Marionb Bartoli and Sabine Lisicki before their Wimbledon final in 2013.

Credit: Imago

The third oldest, and the fourth worst ranked (it’s all relative)

We have the impression of a fairly fresh young player given her rather recent emergence among the very best in the world. But Ons Jabeur, casually, is 27 years old. Which makes her the third oldest player to ‘choose’ Wimbledon to reach her first Grand Slam final. She is overtaken in this category by the Dutch Betty Stöve (32 years old in 1977) and – still her – the Frenchwoman Nathalie Tauziat (30 years old in 1998).

For her part, Elena Rybakina, who emerges in 23rd place, is the fourth worst-ranked player to reach the Wimbledon final since the creation of the WTA rankings in 1975. The other three? Serena Williams (181st in the world in 2018), Venus Williams (31st in 2007) and Sabine Lisicki (24th in 2013).

Very close stats

If Jabeur, on paper, is the favorite against Rybakina, this duel is balanced if we refer to certain statistics. Since the start of their fortnight, the two players have hit almost the same number of winning shots (146 for Jabeur, 144 for Rybakina) and have a similar rate of service games won: 86% for the tall Kazakh waitress, 85% for the Tunisian, however much more efficient on return games (47% breaks against 30%). Very little difference also concerning the number of unforced errors: 140 for Jabeur, 133 for Rybakina.

The two young women will also play their 9th final on the WTA circuit: advantage to Jabeur who won 3 out of 5 (2 out of 6 for Rybakina). But that of this Saturday, obviously, will count double, and even triple.


Rybakina, the disturbing finalist



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