Wimbledon 2022: ‘Minister of happiness’ Ons Jabeur to face Muscovite Elena Rybakina in women’s final

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Wimbledon 2022: ‘Minister of happiness’ Ons Jabeur to face Muscovite Elena Rybakina in women’s final
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The minister for happiness versus the Muscovite. A game for grass from a different Wimbledon era against power tennis. Tomorrow’s women’s final is a total contrast.

Both Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina share the accolade of being first-time Grand Slam finalists and Wimbledon will get a new winner, but that is where the likeness ends.

On a day when Boris Johnson finally resigned and Sir Keir Starmer was in the Royal Box, Jabeur was, bizarrely, asked for her take on British politics.

Her response was simply that she was the “minister of happiness”. And with the throngs of Tunisian fans who gathered below as she gave her post-match interviews and whom she joined afterwards in celebration, she seemed to be doing just that.

She used a different array of strokes to edge out Tatjana Maria, who she calls “her barbecue buddy”, to reach the final in a game with echoes of the Wimbledon of old.

It would do a disservice to Rybakina to suggest her game is one of brute force, but with her serve — she has comfortably more aces than any other in the women’s draw here — and heavy groundstrokes, she blew favourite Simona Halep off court.

Her passage to the final, however, has left the All ­England Club shifting uncomfortably in their seats. Moscow born — her family still live in Russia — she plays under the flag of Kazakhstan, after the nation came in a few years ago to back her financially when she had been struggling to make her mark.

Wimbledon have worked hard to avoid giving any airtime to the Ukraine invasion by banning Russian and Belarusian players from the tournament. But Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev was quick to add his name to those praising Rybakina. “It’s great that everything turned out this way, we will root for her,” he said.

Elena Rybakina (AFP via Getty Images)
Elena Rybakina (AFP via Getty Images)

Rybakina has been pressed about her true nationality during the course of Wimbledon. After beating 2019 champion Halep, she was asked if she still felt Russian at heart.

“What does it mean for you to feel?” she retorted. “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.”

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