London: Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan defeated Ons Jabeur of Tunisia to win the women’s singles title at Wimbledon in three sets and claimed a historic maiden Grand Slam title for herself and her country.
No.17 seed Rybakina fought back brilliantly after losing the first set to defeat third seed Jabeur 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in a final between two first-timers.
Rybakina also became the youngest woman to lift the Venus Rosewater Dish since 21-year-old Petra Kvitova in 2011. She is now the fourth-youngest active major champion on the WTA Tour, older only than Iga Swiatek, Bianca Andreescu and Emma Raducanu.
But things did not start well for Rybakina as she lost her serve early in the first set as Jabeur took a 3-1 lead and went on to a dominant 6-3 win. Jabeur, the crowd favourite as the first female player from the Arab world to reach this stage in a Grand Slam competition and though she started well, Rybakina was too good for her on Saturday.
Rybakina committed 17 unforced errors in the opener. Meanwhile, a fine serving display from Jabeur provided little opportunity to turn the set around. The World No.2 lost only four points on serve in total during the opener; and though Rybakina appeared to have settled midway through, she fell away with another sequence of cheap mistakes to lose the last eight points.
Rybakina found her rhythm in the second set and dominated the match thereafter, negating Jabeur’s dogged style of play that involves mixing powerful groundstrokes with well-disguised drop shots, with big serves and brilliant net play.
The Kazakhstan star’s second-set comeback was down to both raising her attacking game and delivering some of the best defence of her career. She upped her first serve percentage from 58% to 63%, but her movement was a crucial component of this passage of play.
The 23-year-old Moscow-born and Kazakhstan-domiciled Rybakina broke Jabeur early in the second set, and then got the better of her rival’s serve once again to win the take the match into a decider.
Jabeur committed several unforced errors to fall behind a double break. Rybakina levelled the match with the minimum of fuss, slamming down four unreturned serves to close the set-out.
Though Jabeur tried to fight back in the final set and had three break points at 2-3 down, Rybakina, who defeated former champion Simona Halep in the semifinal, saved all three and went on to win the set, match and Championship.
Wimbledon is Rybakina’s third career title, and first since Hobart 2020; in between, she had lost four straight finals, as well as last year’s bronze medal play-off at the Tokyo Olympic Games, according to a report on the WTA Tour website.
Rybakina’s previous best Grand Slam showing was at Roland Garros 2021, where she defeated Serena Williams to reach the quarterfinals before losing to Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.