Russian and Belarusian players were banned from competiting at SW19 this year, in response to the invasion of Ukraine, but it was a 23-year-old born in Moscow, though representing Kazakhstan, who received the trophy from the Duchess of Cambridge.
This was the first women’s singles final at Wimbledon since 1962 involving two first-time Grand Slam finalists, and Rybakina recovered from a shaky opening to hold her nerve impressively.
She produced 17 unforced errors in an erratic first-set display, but composed herself on the biggest stage and powered her way back into the match to win 3-6 6-2 6-2.
Rybakina had been dominant all tournament behind her huge serve but Jabeur made early inroads into it on Centre Court. A forehand into the net from Rybakina gave Jabeur a break point in the third game of the match and she took immediate advantage as another unforced error followed. Shots that had been finding the lines over the past fortnight were now sailing out and Rybakina had to save two more break points in her next service game to avoid falling out of sight.
Holds were exchanged until Rybakina stepped up at 5-3 down to serve to stay in the set. Three wild forehands and a double fault followed as Jabeur moved halfway to the title. History was not at Rybakina’s side at this point. Amelie Mauresmo, in 2006, was the last woman to come from a set behind to win a Wimbledon singles final.
Rybakina had clearly not been consulting the archives before striding out on Centre Court though, as she made a perfect start to the second set. The winners were starting to return. It was nearly a double break too, as she began to anticipate the Jabeur drop shot, but the Tunisian got on the board in the set.
A long fourth game took on increased significance with every deuce. Three break points came and went for Jabeur, as Rybakina delivered on the big points before a huge first serve secured a 3-1 lead. That hold looked even more important when Rybakina secured another break in the following game, and she then produced a serving clinic to take the final to a decider.
It proved to be a continuation of the second set, as Rybakina remained well on top. She broke in the opening game, showing lovely hands at the net on the second break point, before consolidating it as a forehand winner whipped crosscourt sealed a battling hold.
The Centre Court crowd had now adopted Jabeur as one of their own, trying to drag her back into the match. She had her chance too, as she brought up three break points to get it back on serve, but Rybakina held her nerve to save all three in mightily impressive fashion. Once again it swiftly proved costly for Jabeur, as Rybakina brought up a double break with a succession of big forehands to move a game away from victory.
An ace got Rybakina going before a flurry of Jabeur errors brought an end to her challenge. There was no collapsing to the ground or wild celebrations, as Rybakina marked her first Grand Slam title with little more than a smile and an understated wave to the crowd.
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