Ons Jabeur v Elena Rybakina: First-time grand finalists set for Wimbledon battle

History will be made at Wimbledon on Saturday with Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina both attempting to win their maiden grand-slam title in the women’s singles final.

The duo had never made it beyond the quarter-finals of a major before this summer but they have had SW19 spectators on their feet applauding their contrasting styles.

Third seed Jabeur will be the favourite given her standing as the world number two and success on Centre Court would represent the Tunisian fulfilling her destiny.

She would become the first woman from an Arab country and the continent of Africa to win a grand-slam singles title.

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“I did a lot of times imagine myself giving the good speech, holding the trophy, seeing the trophy, I did it all,” Jabeur revealed after Thursday’s win over good friend Tatjana Maria in the semi-finals.

“Now I need really to hold the trophy, that’s the only thing left for me, but I believe in that. I know that I can do it.”

The goal of winning Wimbledon only really started for Jabeur in 2021 when she enjoyed an impressive run to the last eight, beating Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza and Iga Swiatek along the way.

And the 27-year-old has carried on where she left off with her full repertoire of shots displayed during the past two weeks.

Jabeur added: “The dream kind of started last year when I enjoyed playing here, enjoyed the crowd. I didn’t play so many Wimbledons before. Usually it was the first and second round.

“It’s tricky to play on grass. I knew I was playing good on grass because of my game and everything. But last year, Melanie reminded me, my mental coach, I told her I’m coming back next year for the title, when I lost in the quarter-finals.

“I just love everything around here, the atmosphere and everything. It was my main goal from the beginning of the season, and even from last year. I just love it here.”

Rybakina is also attempting to make history by becoming the first player representing Kazakhstan to win a major, but her appearance in the final is not without controversy.

The 23-year-old was born and raised in Russia and played under the flag of her birth country until 2018 when the lure of greater funding from Kazakhstan saw her switch international allegiance.

In a year where Russians and Belarusians are banned from Wimbledon due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there is now a distinct possibility of Moscow-born Rybakina being presented with the trophy on Saturday by the Duchess of Cambridge.

On the prospect of meeting Kate, Rybakina said: “For sure it’s an honour and I’m going to be very excited for this moment no matter if I win or lose. I think it’s just something to remember and it’s going to be amazing.”

Rybakina had flown under the radar this summer but it was after success over Ajla Tomljanovic in the quarter-finals that her Russian background came under scrutiny.

The 17th seed did call for the war in Ukraine to “stop as soon as possible”, but questions about her alleged continued residence in Moscow, following an excellent last-four win over Simona Halep, were answered coyly.

She responded: “I think I’m based on tour because I’m traveling every week.”

For sure it’s an honour and I’m going to be very excited for this moment no matter if I win or lose.

Rybakina is known for showing a lack of emotion on court, but her run to the Wimbledon final has brought a smile to her face.

“I mean, I’m smiling (now),” she laughed during Thursday’s press conference.

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“I really don’t know how I’m going to react (if I win) because I believe in myself. We worked a lot with my team to get through.

“I didn’t expect that I’m going to be here in the second week, especially in the final, but I believe that I have a game to go far in the grand slams and of course, I believed that maybe one day I can win it.”

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