LONDON: Under-stated Elena Rybakina barely broke into a smile after winning the Wimbledon title on Saturday but endeared herself to the Centre Court crowd with a stunning display.
The 23-year-old became the first player representing Kazakhstan to win a Grand Slam singles title as she hit back to overpower favourite Ons Jabeur 3-6 6-2 6-2.
Rybakina barely put a foot wrong as she recovered from a nervous start against the wily Tunisian.
“It’s special because I was super nervous before the match (and) during the match and I’m honestly happy that it is over. I’ve never felt something like this,” Rybakina said on court after being presented with the Venus Rosewater Dish by the Duchess of Cambridge.
“I just want to say big thanks to the crowd for the support, it was unbelievable.”
She was generous in her praise of Jabeur, who was trying to become the first African woman and first Arab to win a Grand Slam title.
“I want to congratulate Ons for the great match and everything you have achieved. It’s amazing and I think you are an inspiration not only to juniors but everybody.
“You have an amazing game and I don’t think that we have someone like this on Tour, you are a joy to play against.
“I ran today so much so I don’t think that I need to do fitness anymore.”
She made a point of thanking the president of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation who was supporting her in her box.
Rybakina, who was born and lives in Moscow, switched allegiance four years ago to gain more financial support.
North African trailblazer Jabeur, 27, looked deflated as she walked off court with her runners-up plate.
“I want to congratulate Elena and her team, she played amazing. I love this tournament so much and I feel really sad but I mean it’s tennis and there is only one winner,” she said.
“I’m really happy that I’m trying to inspire many generations from my country. I hope they’re listening.”