Russian and Belarus players were banned from competing at SW19 this year, in response to Ukraine’s invasion, but it was a 23-year-old Moscow-born player, albeit representing Kazakhstan, who received the trophy from the hands of the Duchess of Cambridge.
It 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 keep her cool impressively.
She produced 17 unforced errors in an erratic first-set display but composed herself on the biggest stage and came back in the game to win 3-6 6-2 6-2.
Rybakina had dominated the entire tournament with his huge serve, but Jabeur made early inroads on center court. A forehand into the net from Rybakina gave Jabeur a break point in game three of the game and she immediately took advantage as another unforced error followed. Shots that had found the lines in the past fortnight were now sailing and Rybakina had to save two more break points on his next service game to avoid falling out of sight.
Holds were traded until Rybakina came in at 5-3 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 on Rybakina’s side at this point. Amelie Mauresmo, in 2006, was the last woman to come back from a set behind to win a singles final at Wimbledon.
Rybakina clearly hadn’t checked the records before heading to center court, as she made a perfect start to the second set. The winners were starting to come back. It was almost a double break too, as she started anticipating Jabeur’s drop shot, but the Tunisian got on the board in the set.
A long fourth game took on added importance with every deuce. Three break points came and went for Jabeur, as Rybakina delivered the big points before a huge first serve secured a 3-1 lead. That hold seemed even more important when Rybakina got another break in the next game, and she then produced a service clinic to bring the final to a decider.
It turned out to be a continuation of the second set, as Rybakina remained well ahead. She broke in the opener, showing some great hands at the net on the second break point, before cementing it as a forehand winner, whipped crosscourt, sealed a grapple hold.
The center court crowd had now adopted Jabeur as one of their own, trying to bring her back into the game. She also had her chance, as she got three break points to recover it on serve, but Rybakina kept her composure to save all three in impressive fashion. Once again, it quickly proved costly for Jabeur as Rybakina scored a double break with a succession of big forehands to take a game away from victory.
An ace launched Rybakina before a series of errors from Jabeur ended his challenge. There was no floor crash or wild celebration as Rybakina scored her maiden Grand Slam title with little more than a smile and a low-key wave to the crowd.