Rybakina Wins Historic Wimbledon Title

Elena Rybakina (photo: Jürgen Hasenkopf)

WIMBLEDON/WASHINGTON, July 9, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

There is a first time for everything and Saturday’s women’s final at the Wimbledon Championships, played under sunny skies at the All England Club, provided the biggest day in the lives of first-time major finalists Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina.

A new Grand Slam champion was crowned Saturday afternoon as the World No. 2 Jabeur from Tunisia and No. 17 seed Rybakina of Kazakhstan took to the famed Centre Court in its centenary season. The Venus Rosewater Dish was won by the 23-year-old Rybakina, who rallied over the No. 3 seed Jabeur, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2, in one hour and 47 minutes.

Rybakina, who became Kazakhstan’s first Grand Slam champion and the youngest woman to win Wimbledon since Petra Kvitova at age 21 in 2011, triumphed on her first championship point with a service winner against Jabeur. She remained composed and calm and celebrated with barely a fist pump.

Jabeur, who came in having won 22 of her last 24 matches, including a title at Berlin, completed her grass season 11-1. At the outset, the Tunisian showed so much belief in her game and embraced the moment. For one set, it looked as if the title match would become a coronation for Jabeur. Instead, it was Rybakina who recovered nicely, maintained her composure the best, and came on strong at the finish. She beamed a quiet and polite smile as she raised the Venus Rosewater Dish in celebration of what she had just accomplished.

Rybakina would finish with four aces and hit 29 winners to 33 unforced errors. She converted four of six break-point opportunities against Jabeur and outpointed her 83-80. She also saved all seven break points she faced from the Tunisian in the final two sets. Jabeur countered with four aces, won 69 percent (27 of 39) of her first-serve points, hit 17 winners and made 21 unforced errors.

Both Jabeur and Rybakina brought a marked contrast in their game styles and personality into the final – the 27-year-old Jabeur through her deft touch and variety of spin and drop shots and Rybakina through her powerful serve – but each justified their standing and worthiness in playing for the grandest prize in women’s tennis after winning six matches over the past two weeks to advance to the title match.

“I did a lot of times imagine myself giving the good speech, holding the trophy, seeing the trophy,” Jabeur said in her news conference after her 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 semifinal victory over her good friend Tatjana Maria of Germany on Thursday.

“One of the things that I hate is [to] disappoint myself. I hope I will not do that. I’m all the way there. There is one match left, so hopefully I’ll give it all.”

For one set, everything went very well for Jabeur. However, after Saturday’s outcome, the No. 3 seed was resigned to give the runner-up speech. She remained poised, proud and hopeful for the future.

“I feel really said, but it’s tennis – there is only one winner,” Jabeur said. “I’m trying to inspire many generations from my country, I hope they’re listening.”

With only one win on grass as a lead in to Wimbledon, Rybakina had been a nice surprise during this Wimbledon fortnight. After she ousted 2019 Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in Thursday’s semifinal round, she admitted in her news conference that she knew she had what it takes to be a champion.

“I didn’t expect that I’m going to be here in the second week, especially in the final,” Rybakina said. “I believe that I have a game to go far in the Grand Slams. Of course, I believe that maybe one day I can win it. … Only now probably I understand that I’m very close to being a champion.”

As it happened, after breaking her opponent in the third game to take a 2-1 lead, Jabeur wrapped up the 32-minute opening set with a double break of Rybakina by taking advantage of a double fault and three of her opponent’s 17 unforced errors. She fired a fist pump in a show of emotion.

Jabeur won 80 percent of her service points in the first set, hitting six winners, and didn’t face a break point. Although Jabeur didn’t hit too many of her signature drop shots in the opener, when she did they were effective.

However, Rybakina turned the tide and broke Jabeur to start the second set, then consolidated it after Jabeur hit a forehand unforced error to lead 2-0. The comeback was on. Soon, Rybakina went on to gain a double-break advantage and garnered the 39-minute set with authority, hitting her second ace to finish a love hold.

Next, Rybakina broke Jabeur for the third time in five games to open the 39-minute third set and, again, consolidated it for a quick 2-0 lead. What started very strongly at the beginning of the final for the Tunisian suddenly was beginning to slip away. At 3-2, Jabeur gained break points against Rybakina, but the Kazakh held steady and saved three straight break points. Then, she firmly held for a 4-2 lead and gained a double-break lead at 5-2, after Jabeur hit a forehand forced error return long.

Suddenly, Rybakina found herself serving for the match and the title. She didn’t throw away her shot. In this historic Wimbledon title match between two first-time Grand Slam finalists in the Open Era, Rybakina promptly closed it out with a service winner and the title was hers to savor and enjoy. She became the first player since Amelie Mauresmo in 2006 to come back from a set down to win the Wimbledon title.
The victory by Rybakina ended the 11-match winning streak by Jabeur and also the Tunisian’s bid to become the first Arab player and African woman to win a Grand Slam title in the Open Era.

During her on-court interview with the BBC’s Sue Barker after receiving her trophy, Rybakina said: “I’m speechless because I was super nervous before the match, during the match and I’m honestly happy that it finished, to be honest. I’ve never felt something like this.”

Rybakina also gave props to Jabeur: “I want to congratulate Ons for the great match and everything you’ve achieved.

“It’s amazing and you’re an inspiration, not only for the young juniors but for everybody. You have an amazing game and I don’t think we have someone like this on tour.

“It’s a joy to play against you. I ran today so much, so I don’t think that I need to do fitness any more, honestly.

“I didn’t expect I would be in the second week at Wimbledon. To be a winner, it’s just amazing. I don’t have words to say how happy I am.”

Ebden and Purcell win men’s doubles title in epic 5-set tie break 

Australia’s Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell, seeded 14th, went the five-set distance for the fifth time during the British fortnight to win their first Grand Slam doubles title.

Ebden, 34, and Purcell, 24, this year’s Australian Open runners-up, defeated defending Wimbledon champions and No. 2 seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic, both of Croatia, 7-6 (5), 6-7 (3), 4-6, 6-4, 10-2 in four hours and 11 minutes on Centre Court Saturday evening.

In the first fifth-set tie break to determine a Wimbledon men’s doubles champion, the Aussies jumped out to a 5-2 lead and soon increased it to 9-2. Then, Ebden fired an ace on match point – his team’s sixth of the match – to win it. Ebden and Purcell outpointed Mektic and Pavic 199-187.

Mektic and Pavic were vying to be the first repeat Wimbledon men’s doubles champions since Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia achieved the feat in 2008-09. Instead, Ebden and Purcell are the first Wimbledon champions in any discipline to save match points in multiple matches en route to winning the title. Earlier, they saved three match points in their first-round win over Andre Goransson of Sweden and Ben McLachlan of Japan. Then, they saved five match points during their semifinal upset win over No. 1 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain.

Around the All England Club

• No. 1 seed Liv Hovde of the United States swept Luca Udvardy of Hungary, 6-3, 6-4, to win the junior girls’ singles title on No. 1 Court. The 16-year-old Hovde from McKinney, Texas, is the 14th American girl to win the Wimbledon junior title and just the second since Chanda Rubin won the title in 1992.

Hovde, who finished with 15 winners, is the second American player to win a Grand Slam junior singles title in 2022 after Bruno Kuzuhara, who won the boys’ singles title at the Australian Open in January.

“I think it suits my game and it’s a really cool surface to play on,” Hovde said, speaking of playing on grass.

“It was super nerve-racking at the beginning but I just had to focus on my ‘down below’ instead of on the people. I hope to be back [here] in the pros soon.”

By reaching the final, Hovde became the 22nd American player to reach the Wimbledon girls’ singles final – and the fifth in the last decade after Taylor Townsend (2013), Claire Liu and Ann Li (both in 2017), and Alexa Noel (2019).

• The American pair of Alex Michelsen and Sebastian Gorzny won the junior boys’ doubles title with 7-6 (5), 6-3 victory over the French team of Gabriel Debru and Paul Inchaupse in an hour and 17 minutes on Court 12.

• The junior girls’ doubles title was won by Angela Okutoyi of Kenya and Rose Marie Nijkamp of the Netherlands in an hour and 13 minutes on Court 18. They defeated the Canadian duo of Kayla Cross and Victoria Mboko, 3-6, 6-4, 11-9. Okutoyi is the first Kenyan player to win a Grand Slam title.

• No. 1 seed Diedre de Groot of the Netherlands won the women’s wheelchair singles with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Yui Kamiji of Japan. De Groot hit 28 winners and converted eight of 12 break points. She outpointed Kamiji 64-53. The victory gave de Groot her seventh consecutive Grand Slam title.

• No. 2 seeds Gustavo Fernandez of Argentina and Shingo Kunieda of Japan won the men’s wheelchair doubles title with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 1 seeds Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid, both of Great Britain. The loss ended a run of 10 straight major titles won by Hewett and Reid.

Saturday’s Wimbledon results

Sunday’s Wimbledon order of play

By the numbers

Saturday’s Wimbledon women’s final between Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina marked the first time in the Open Era that two female players at their maiden Grand Slam final faced each other in the championship match.

“Quotable …”

“Great experience. I can take a lot of confidence from it. To reach the semis, reach the Friday of the second week, is pretty sick. But I think for me, I want to go [for] more and I want to do more of that and go further and try to win a Slam.

“A lot of first for me this week, a lot of good experiences. Hopefully, I can take them in my stride. I think looking, comparing to Novak, I think it was just the level of execution from hi today was better than me. His level of focus, the way he handled his service games was better than me. That was the difference.”

– No. 9 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, the last British player remaining in the men’s singles draw, following his four-set semifinal loss to top-seed Novak Djokovic on Friday.