Ons Jabeur And Elena Rybakina Set Up Exciting And Historic Wimbledon Final

The final will be played on Centre Court on Saturday
18:42, 07 Jul 2022

Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur has been dubbed the ‘Minister for Happiness’ in her proud home nation as a result of her trail-blazing achievements – and in what will be a first grand slam final for both players on Centre Court at Wimbledon she will face an awkward reality for the organisers inopponent and Russian-born Elena Rybakina on Saturday. 

The day of the final falls during the national holiday of Eid al Adha back home, the main Muslim feasting festival that usually sees a cow sacrificed with the family eating about a third and then sharing the rest with friends and relatives, and donated to the poor and needy. 

And a huge percentage of the 12million population can be expected to watch on TV as the first Tunisian, African and Arab woman to reach any grand slam final goes for glory – after beating great friend Tatjana Maria of Germany 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 in Thursday’s semi-final. 

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The 27-year-old Jabeur, the No3 seed this year, has taken her time to reach these heights and worked incredibly hard perfecting a range of unique skills. Deft touch and finesse is often blown away by those with a power game in today’s tennis world, but Jabeur has found novel ways of hurting her opponents.  

The 34-year-old Maria, who enjoyed a magnificent run to a first slam semi-final just over a year after having her second daughter, battled hard to snatch the second set but had no answers either in the sets either side. 

Jabeur said: “It feels amazing to be in the final. Now one more step to hopefully get the title. It's always about Tunisia somehow. I want to go bigger, inspire many more generations. Tunisia is connected to the Arab world, and is connected to the African continent. In the area, we want to see more players.  

“It's not like Europe or any other countries. I want to see more players from my country, from the Middle East, from Africa. I think we didn't believe enough at certain point that we can do it. Now I'm just trying to show that, and hopefully people are getting inspired. 

“It's nice of them to call me that minister of happiness name at home, unbelievable. It's funny because the actual minister calls me ‘Hello, Minister’. It's funny. It's tough times in Tunisia sometimes. When they see my matches, always say sports always unites people. I'm happy they follow me. They're pushing me to do better. 

“I mean, if I make it and win the title on that special holiday, one of my favourites actually, it's going to be great. I always miss it. I always want to be with the family for that one. It always reminds me of being a child, and I used to have great moments with my family that day. It's like Christmas for you guys -  similar for us. I’ll have a special celebration maybe after, and hopefully we'll enjoy it in positive vibes.” 

Meanwhile if the tennis story of Kazakhstan’s No17 seed Rybakina is also compelling, circumstances way beyond her control are likely to see her cede the title of crowd favourite to Jabeur on Saturday despite a very impressive if unexpected 6-3, 6-3 win over former champion Simona Halep. 

It is extraordinary that after all the controversy and reaction to Russian and Belarusian players being banned, a player born and living in Moscow could still receive the Venus Rosewater dish. 

As a result of pressure from the British government, Wimbledon stopped all players from those two countries from entering over the war in Ukraine. This triggered a response from the ATP and WTA, removing all ranking points from the tournament. It appears another worry was that royalty might have to present a trophy to Daniil Medvedev in the men’s event. 

If Rybakina wins the women’s final, at least the 23-year-old is technically playing under a Kazakhstan flag, the country that stepped in with an attractive and lucrative offer four years ago when the costs of starting on tour seemed all too daunting, and the nationality switch went through. 

But the roots and the links still remain with Rybakina admitting earlier in the week when asked if she felt more Kazakh or Russian was “a very difficult one”. It is unfortunate for a helpless Wimbledon, as you imagine the Russian regime will exact any possible kudos from the situation. 

Rybakina brought her power A-game to the Centre Court, and was slightly helped by Halep’s improved serve going AWOL as she offered up nine double faults. 

Rybakina, who called for war to end “as soon as possible” after her quarter-final win, said: “I can’t really believe it. I had many tough matches against Simona before, I knew I had to be very focused today and I am pleased with the way I played. The matches on Court One and others helped me be ready to play on Centre Court. Ons is a very good player and I know the final will be difficult, but I will do my best.” 

Rybakina vs Jabeur odds via Betfred*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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