London | Rybakina and Jabeur honoured

The two finalists of the Ladies Singles at The Championships have been honoured by their respective countries, champion Elena Rybakina awarded with Kazakhstan’s Order of Dostyk (Friendship) and runner-up Ons Jabeur with Tunisia’s Great Medal of the National Order of Merit.

Rybakina received her award from the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for becoming the first Kazakh Grand Slam champion in history.

Born in Moscow, Rybakina has had to deal with a lot of questions about her nationality, but she insisted that she now considers herself a Kazakhstan citizen and Bulat Utemuratov, the President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation, is confident the sport will grow on the back of her success.

“I am delighted for Elena and offer my congratulations on this monumental achievement,” he said. “It was amazing to be at Centre Court for the final and the emotions were just overwhelming.

“I knew she could do it – she’s an incredible player, who has been constantly improving and performing at the highest level.

“Elena’s victory is testament to the years of hard work from her and her team, and support from her parents and the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation. We have some very promising young tennis players in Kazakhstan and I’m incredibly excited about both Elena’s future and the sport in our country.”

Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov presented Elena Rybakina in the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, with the Dostyq order of the 2nd degree on Thursday

Jabeur continued her trailblazing when she became the first African woman to reach a Grand Slam singles final, and was honoured accordingly by Tunisian President Kais Saied on Thursday for ‘her remarkable sporting successes’.

Saied hailed the 27-year old for raising ‘high the country’s flag in international sporting events’ and described her as ‘the ambassador of Tunisia’.

“Congratulations for this success and future successes,” he said.

Jabeur was greeted by hundreds of fans when she made her way out of the Tunis-Carthage International Airport in the capital of Tunis on Thursday.

She is the highest-ranked African or Arab player, male or female, in history after entering Wimbledon ranked No 2 by the WTA.

Nicknamed ‘Minister of Happiness’ by fans in Tunisia, Jabeur said she hoped to inspire other Arab and African players to succeed at tennis.

“We want to give more hope to the young people who watch us,” she said. “We hope to continue this momentum.

“We are proud to be Tunisians and we will continue with this success story.”

Tunisia’s President Kais Saied awarded Ons Jabeur with the country’s National Order of Merit on Wednesday

Rybakina, meanwhile, pledged some of her £2 million prize money earnings to go to help other causes.

Unfortunately for both, they will not receive a boost in their rankings due to the removal of points from the tournament.

Rybakina was also offered a bonus from the Kazakh Tennis Federation as a reward for her historic achievement, the first Kazakh player in history to win a major title.

Instead of accepting the bonus, the 23-year old asked for that money to be invested into the junior program.

Speaking to reporters earlier this week, she also confirmed that part of her prize money will be allocated to an animal charity.

“First of all, of course, I would like to help the juniors, most of it [money] will go to them, “ she told the Astana Times. “And the second important point for me: I was at the shelter, and I was very much moved by it, so I would like to allocate money for the animal shelter.”

Speaking further about the junior Tour, the World No 23 describes herself as one of the lucky players who have managed to move successfully onto the Pro Tour.

As a junior she reached a high of No 3 and reached the semi-final stage of two Grand Slam girls tournaments.

“The transition from juniors to an adult professional career is very difficult,” Rybakina said. “Besides the fact that you have to have a good team around you, not everyone is able to continue at the professional level and only a few people reach the top.

“I’ve been very lucky in that respect.” said Rybakina.

Rybakina switched her allegiance from Russia to Kazakhstan in 2018 for support to pursue her tennis career.

“At that moment, which was almost five years ago, it so happened that I had an acute question: what to do next? I was about 17-18 years old,” she explained. “I had to decide whether I would try to play and stay in professional sports or go studying.

“We found each other, and at the end of the day, I am very happy that my journey continues exactly with Kazakhstan.

“History is happening together thanks to Kazakhstan. Thank you very much for your support.”

Rybakina, who besides Wimbledon, has won 2 WTA Tour titles and been ranked as high as 12, is now preparing for the upcoming North American hardcourt swing.

Elena Rybakina embraces her coach Stefano Vukov in her team box at Wimbledon

© Julian Finney/Getty Images



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