Why Moscw-born Elena Rybakina ditched Russia to represent Kazakhstan

Elena Rybakina shrugged off her relative inexperience to seal an historic Wimbledon triumph at the expense of Ons Jabeur.

The 23-year-old came from a set down to beat the pugnacious Tunisian and in the process become Kazakhstan’s first ever Grand Slam champion.

It was somewhat ironic, in a year where Russians have been banned from competing at SW19, that a player born in Moscow should win the title.

Rybakina has, however, been representing her adopted country since 2018, a decision she made in order to receive the additional funding which has now helped propel her to global fame.

The big-serving Rybakina was cheered on by the president of the Kazakhstani Tennis Association from the players box and she made a point of thanking him in her victory speech on Centre Court.

She said: ‘I appreciate because you came to support me in the semi-final and now in the final and it’s unbelievable so I want to say a big thanks and to the rest of my team.’

The issue of Rybakina and her Russian roots represented a major talking point throughout the course of her Wimbledon campaign and she confessed, ahead of the final, that she felt sympathy from those who were prevented from playing, including men’s world No.1 Daniil Medvedev.

Asked if she still ‘feels Russian’, Rybakina said: ‘What does it mean for you to feel? I mean, I’m playing tennis, so for me, I’m enjoying my time here.

‘I feel for the players who couldn’t come here, but I’m just enjoying playing here on the biggest stage, enjoying my time and trying to do my best.

‘I’m playing already for Kazakhstan for a long time. I’m really happy representing Kazakhstan.

‘They believed in me. There is no more question about how I feel. It’s just already a long time, my journey as a Kazakh player.

‘I was born in Russia, yes, but I’m representing Kazakhstan. I don’t know why we have to come back to this.

‘Today for my match, for example, the president of our federation came to support me. It’s really a big thing. It’s unbelievable support which I just appreciate.’

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