Elena Rybakina Crowned 2022 Wimbledon Women’s Singles Winner
By: Annabelle Lu
Last Saturday, 23-year-old Elena Rybakina became the first Kazakhstani tennis player to win a major title. While her incredible run during the 2022 Wimbledon Women’s Singles Tournament was a major accomplishment, many remain divided after receiving an outcome they weren’t necessarily rooting for.
Russian-born Rybakina determinedly fought her way to the top despite not being the favorite, especially after Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian tennis players in response to the Ukraine invasion. During the final, she defeated No. 2 Women’s Tennis Association ranked player Ons Jabeur with a score of 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
However, as The New York Times journalist Christopher Clarey wrote, “The timing was all wrong, even if the 23-year-old Rybakina’s timing from the baseline was often pitch perfect.” The very fans that had roared so loudly for Jabeur minutes ago courteously met Rybakina’s victorious claim of the Venus Rosewater Dish with controlled applause, watching on as the champion finally cracked a smile.
As an Arab and African woman succeeding at such a high level at tennis, Jabeur was a deeply symbolic figure throughout the tournament and garnered much fondness from the crowd. The Tunisian trailblazer, nicknamed the Minister of Happiness by her fellow citizens, kept a grin on her face as she accepted the second-place plate after her historic campaign. “You’re a champion for so many,” tweeted Wimbledon in a show of support for the runner-up.
Even through the awkwardness surrounding the circumstances of her triumph, Rybakina kept her cool. When asked if Russia might try to politicize her victory, she responded, “I didn’t choose where I was born. People believed in me. Kazakhstan supported me so much. Even today, I heard so much support.”
Although Rybakina’s victory over Jabeur may not have been convenient to all concerned, the achievement carried a lot of weight. Rybakina began tearing up after being asked how her parents might react to her victory if she ever returned to Russia so she could see them again. “Probably, they’re going to be super proud,” answered Rybakina in a moving moment.
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