Will Russia try to politicize Elena Rybakina’s victory at Wimbledon?

Wimbledon, England. Victory at Wimbledon for the first time, it seemed, was hardly marked by Elena Rybakina.

A match point earned against Once Frog, Rybakina lightly clenched her left fist, wiped her mouth with her bracelet, exhaled, and leisurely walked towards the net to shake hands with the fallen Frog, then waved to the crowd as urgently as Queen Elizabeth waves to ordinary people from the carriage window.

Rybakina certainly smiled after her 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win, but for a 23-year-old whose career had just been turned around by a stunning title run, that was an understatement. even by English standards.

“She gets the trophy for the least emotional Slam victory,” said Martina Navratilova, nine-time Wimbledon singles champion.

But it is not surprising that Rybakina’s feelings were simply classified, and a couple of hours later, after she posed with a gilded dish handed to the champion, she was asked at a press conference how her parents might react to her victory. when she finally got a chance to talk to them.

“They will probably be very proud,” she said, starting to cry.

“You wanted to see emotions,” she said, trying to regain her composure. “Kept too long.”

It was a touching moment, more touching, to be honest, than anything that happened on Saturday in Central Court, Shakespeare’s scene of so many breakthroughs and flops over the decades, including Yana Novotna crying on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent after losing to Steffi Graf in the 1993 final.

History, all those ghosts on the grass can hit a player trying to join a club hard, and Rybakin and Zhaber certainly had to get over early excitement as they both played in their first Grand Slam final.

True stylistic difference is rare in women’s big matches, but Rybakina and Zhaber showed plenty of contrast as they explored the backcourt and frontcourts of tennis’ most famous spectacle.

Rybakina, a lean and leggy 6-foot athlete representing Kazakhstan, has intimidating power and a first and second serve that can reach pace for the men’s tour.

Gill, a stockier and much shorter Tunisian, is a creative force: he walks merrily around the court between points and prefers throws and abrupt rhythm changes as soon as they start.

But in this recently arrived final, strength trumped dexterity: the first Wimbledon final between two women’s singles finalists, the first since 1962 when Karen Zusman of the USA defeated Vera Sukova of Czechoslovakia.

“I didn’t play my best tennis in, say, the second and third sets,” Jabeur said. “She began to behave more aggressively. I think she spoke much more in court and put a lot of pressure. Which, unfortunately, to date I have not found a solution.

Rybakina’s ability to score big with composure and timely serves was remarkable and never more rewarding than when she avoided a 0-40 serving deficit at 3-2 in the third set.

But this first-class tennis came as no surprise to her coach, Stefano Vukov, a Croatian who watched the game from the players’ box on Saturday. He noticed this when he first decided to work with her towards the end of the 2018 season.

“Everyone is nervous, but she is a very clutch player,” he said. “She showed me that at the first tournaments we ever played. When the score drew near, she always emerged victorious from these close contests. So it was basically easy for her, just her personality and her playing style.”

Her Wimbledon victory was very impressive, but not the result that most on Center Court or on the All England Club payrolls coveted.

No. Jaber, who placed 2nd, is not only a sympathetic figure, but deeply symbolic as an Arab woman succeeds at the highest levels of a sport that aims to become truly global. Rybakina, who finished 23rd, plays for Kazakhstan, but she is a Russian who was born, raised and until this year lived in Moscow, where her parents still live.

Wimbledon once honored another tall blonde Russian rookie when Maria Sharapova unexpectedly won the title in 2004 at the age of 17. But the arrival of Rybakina comes at the wrong time for those who are connected with Russia. Tournament banned all Russian and Belarusian players (and journalists) this year because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The move comes after pressure from the British government, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has just stepped down. But the ban was also introduced in order to deprive Russia and its leadership of the opportunity to use any Russian success in the tournament for propaganda purposes.

Rybakina, who began representing Kazakhstan in 2018, was asked if her home country would try to politicize her victory.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I have been playing for Kazakhstan for a very, very long time. I represent him at the biggest tournaments, the Olympics, which is a dream come true. I don’t know what will happen. I mean, it’s always some kind of news, but there’s nothing I can do about it.”

This is definitely true. After all, Wimbledon does not allow players who represent Russia, not players who used to represent Russia. And it’s hard to see how the Russian government or sports officials could use Rybakina’s success as a flashy and brilliant tale of Russian triumph when it was the lack of support from Russia in her career that ultimately caused her to switch sides.

“I didn’t choose where I was born,” she said. “People believed in me. Kazakhstan has been very supportive of me. Even today I heard so much support. I have seen the flags, so I don’t know how to answer these questions.”

She is hardly the first Russian tennis player who took money and privileges and decided to represent Kazakhstan. She is hardly the first tennis player to take money and convenience and decide to represent another country.