Elena Rybakina’s modest celebrations after winning Wimbledon on Saturday was mostly due to her impassive personality but there was possibly also an air of inevitability about her triumph that made her react the way she did.
Rybakina was only 20 when her career graph went on an upward trajectory around the start of the 2020 season as she lifted a second WTA title in Hobart and also reached the finals in Shenzhen, St Petersburg and Dubai.
She broke into the top 20 of the women’s world rankings in February 2020, but saw her progress stymied due to a thigh injury before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of the tennis season.
The Moscow-born player, who shifted allegiance to Kazakhstan four years back, reached her maiden Grand Slam quarter-finals at the French Open last year before making the fourth round at the manicured lawns of the All England Club.
So what changed between being another youngster with massive potential to becoming a Grand Slam champion?
“The last three years I think I’m top 20,” Rybakina, who reached a career-high ranking of 12 in January, told a small group of reporters late on Saturday during her countless rounds of media obligations.
“And I had very good matches, great battles, against great champions, and it was always close.
“In those close moments I was the one who will lose the serve or just miss. Maybe it mentally clicked (this time). I believed in myself more in this tournament and in the crucial moments I was just solid enough to win.”
After 21-year-old Iga Swiatek’s success at Roland Garros last month and the world number one Pole’s strong run this season, Rybakina felt there was a change of generation in women’s tennis and the younger players were taking charge.
Rybakina believed she will go to New York next month more confident about the US Open, where she has not made it past the third round in three attempts.
With an explosive game modelled mostly on a thunderous serve and iron-heavy groundstrokes, the lanky Rybakina seems to be a shortcut recipe for success on grasscourts.
And she has underlined her potential by going down in three sets to then world number two Aryna Sabalenka on her Wimbledon main draw debut last year before going on to receive the Venus Rosewater Dish from the Duchess of Cambridge at Centre Court on a warm Saturday afternoon.
She was the fifth different singles champion at the grasscourt Grand Slam in as many editions and her celebration was muted — an unanimated fistpump and a barely discernible smile — before she walked to shake hands with Ons Jabeur.
Asked if she believed she can be the dominant champion at the All England Club in future, Rybakina said: “I think yes.
“Because it was just my second time in the main draw of Wimbledon. And actually, last year I also played really good.
“I think I was in a fourth round, lost to Aryna Sabalenka. It was a very close much and she played unbelievable. So why not? Maybe I’m gonna be doing well here. We’ll see.”
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