Elena Rybakina just became the newest Wimbledon champ! The 23-year-old tennis star beat Ons Jabeur 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the championship final on Saturday, July 9 to become the first tennis player from Kazakhstan to win a Grand Slam singles championship. This was also the first women’s tennis title match since 1962 at the All England Club between two players who were making their debuts in a major final. Elena, who is ranked no. 23 in the world, ended the No. 2-ranked Ons’ 12-match winning streak to take home the Wimbledon Cup trophy and around $2 million in cash.
Keep reading to find out all about Elena — and the drama that surrounded her Wimbledon participation — below.
1. Elena was born in Russia
Elena was born on June 17, 1999 in Moscow. She began playing tennis at the age of six with her older sister and shortly afterwards started training with professional coaches.
2. Switching her international allegiance caused drama
The latest Wimbledon winner was mired in a bit of drama as the tournament barred all players who represent Russia or Belarus this year due to the war in Ukraine; Elena was born in Russia and switched allegiance to Kazakhstan in 2018, when that country offered her financial support to pursue tennis. “It was very good timing because they were looking for a player,” she has previously said, per the PA. “I was looking for some help. They believed in me, so I think it was a very good combination.”
3. Elena turned to tennis because of her height
Elena showed her athletic prowess at an early age and soon began training in gymnastics and ice skating. When it was obvious her height (Elena is now 6′ tall) would impede her success in those sports, her father suggested she try her luck with tennis, per the PA.
She took so well to the sport that her parents were concerned she was more focused on the courts that the classrooms. “I remember that it was for me so difficult to combine tennis and school,” Elena told the outlet. “Just remember at 17, 18 I have to do the exam and I’m playing the semi-final of French Open junior, I think. It was a nightmare to be honest. The fights with the parents because they want me to study, but the same time they see the results as a junior.”
4. She faced Serena Williams at the French Open
Elena came face to face with the tennis GOAT at last year’s French Open. She ended up beating 23-time grand-slam champion Serena Williams in the third round. In her typical fashion, Elena kept her excitement at bay after taking down the iconic athlete. “I’m just a very calm person, I’m not showing my emotions. It’s been always like this but of course I’m full of emotions inside,” she later explained to reporters.
5. Elena has big name endorsements
After reaching four finals in 2020, Elena was sponsored by Adidas for clothing and sneakers. She was preciously endorsed by Nike.