Wimbledon 2022: Rybakina still processing ‘shocking’ SW19 triumph

Elena Rybakina was the only woman to win a Wimbledon title on Saturday but it appeared that she may have been the least bothered of the 15,000 inside Centre Court.

Tennis players often jump for joy, scream, sink into the ground and fall on their knees when winning a Slam, processing the sheer magnitude of their achievement.

But when Ons Jabeur sent a return sailing wide to hand Rybakina a 3-6 6-2 6-2 victory, there was barely a flicker from the 23-year-old.

“I didn’t know what to do. It was shocking. I don’t know, maybe because I believe that I can do it deep inside. But at the same time it’s, like, too many emotions. I was just trying to keep myself calm,” said Rybakina, when asked about her rather nonchalant reaction to a first Grand Slam triumph.

“We worked a lot to be here, where I am right now. But it’s so unexpectable these two weeks, what happened. It was such a tough match mentally and physically, so in the end I was just super happy that it finished. In this moment I just didn’t believe that I made it.

“I don’t know what should happen. When I was giving the speech in the end I was thinking that I’m going to cry right now, but somehow I held it. Maybe later when I’m going to be alone in the room, I’m going to cry non-stop. I don’t know.

“Maybe one day you will see a huge reaction from me, but unfortunately not today.”

The end to the match was almost as calm and composed as her celebration, dropping just four games in the final two sets to seal victory, but at one point it appeared that would not be the case.

When Jabeur broke for a second time to win the first set it seemed she could run away with the contest, and Rybakina would be one of those who cracked under the pressure of a Slam final.

However her free-flowing tennis returned, and as her opponent’s level fell she took control.

Perhaps part of the reason there was so little celebration at the end was the fact she found her first Wimbledon final a stressful experience, having to battle back from a slow start.

She added: “Maybe the first set I was too nervous. Of course, Ons, she played well. I needed time to adjust to her game.

“I was just running to all these dropshots. I think it was the first time really when I ran so much to all these tricky shots from Ons.

“But then I thought that I’m going to fight till the end no matter what. I just tried to focus on every point because it was very tough. 

“I was too stressed out. I think I didn’t enjoy it as much as I should maybe. I enjoyed the semi-final. I don’t know why. I also played very well in that match.

“I think that I’m going to enjoy it for sure maybe tomorrow, maybe when everything is going to be calm. 

“I’m going to be around my close friends, family. For sure I’m going to remember all the memories on this day.”

Inevitably there were questions about her Russian background similar to those that have been asked following her past two matches, but it was her reaction to another question that was so revealing.

Rybakina visibly teared up when asked about what this would mean for her parents who she has not seen in months and, like so many in sporting families, sacrificed so much when she was a junior.

“You wanted to see emotion – I kept it too long,” she joked.

No matter how she feels now and whether the moment has sunk in or not, the Rybakina family will probably look back on the last fortnight and think everything has been worth it.

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