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7 Jul, 2022 16:30

Russian-born star storms into Wimbledon final

Elena Rybakina disposed of Simona Halep in two sets
Russian-born star storms into Wimbledon final

Moscow-born Elena Rybakina has reached the women's final at Wimbledon after seeing off former champion Simona Halep in straight sets in their meeting on Thursday. 

Now representing Kazakhstan, 23-year-old Rybakina produced what some have dubbed her best performance yet at SW19 and was far too powerful for her Romanian rival, whom she defeated 6-3, 6-3. 

With her victory, Rybakina set up a Saturday clash with Tunisia's Ons Jabeur, who beat Tatjana Maria in the other semifinal. 

Both women will be contesting a maiden Grand Slam final when they meet at the All England Club. 

Third seed Jabeur is the first Arab player to reach a Grand Slam singles final in the Open era, while number 17 seed Rybakina is the first singles player from Kazakhstan to get to a major final in tennis history.

The youngster represented Russia until 2018, and then switched allegiances after being offered Kazakhstani citizenship and more funding to help in her career trajectory.

This means Rybakina has not been subject to the ban on Russians at Wimbledon this year made as a response to the military operation in Ukraine.

Even so, Rybakina is the first Russian-born player to get to the final at the British spectacle since Maria Sharapova in 2011.

Sharapova fell at the last hurdle to Petra Kvitova that year, but she did beat Serena Williams in its 2004 edition as a 17-year-old.

If successful at the weekend, Rybakina will be the first Russian-born tennis ace to win Wimbledon in 18 years.

Reacting to her victory, Rybakina said it was a "great match" and called Halep a "great champion" with whom she has shared "many tough" encounters.

"I was really focused today and I'm really happy with my performance because I think I played really solid today.

"I was nervous of course," Rybakina admitted. "But I think the matches before helped me with my first match on Court One the other day, and today was Centre Court for the first time. But I think the atmospheres I've had have helped me.

"When I came out I was nervous but I'm really happy I managed to win," she added.

Rybakina claimed she was mentally prepared for Halep and did everything she could to win while predicting another "great match" against Jabeur, who she described as a "very tricky player".

"It's not going to be easy to play against her drop shots and volleys. I think it will be a great match and I will enjoy it, I think I already did the work so it's time to enjoy it out on [the] court," Rybakina concluded.

Rybakina stands to win £2 million ($2.4 million) in prize money should she win the tournament, although no WTA rankings points are on offer after the organization punished Wimbledon for its ban on Russian and Belarusian players.

Due to this, she is set to maintain her world number 23 spot despite her impressive run to the final.

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