Wimbledon is forced to deal with an inconvenient truth ahead of Saturday’s women’s final

Although she has represented Kazakhstan for the past few years, Alena Rybakina could strike at Wimbledon’s anti-Russian sentiment in Saturday’s women’s final at the All England Club.

Rybakina, 23, who was born in Moscow, played for Russia for the first few years of her career before deciding to switch to Kazakhstan shortly after her 19th birthday after being offered financial support by the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation.

And while the Kazakh flag will fly ahead of her Center Court showdown against third seed Ons Jaber on Saturday, her very presence in the exhibition match has caused some nervousness in London, judging by the reaction of the Western media.

This year’s Wimbledon was one of the most dramatic SW19 tournaments in recent memory; Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas clashed (almost literally) in a furious match on Center Court, while Rafael Nadal starred ahead of his semi-final match with Kyrgios, securing the Australian’s first-ever Wimbledon final qualification. but two of the headline-grabbing narratives that have dominated events thus far.

But all of this – Kyrgios’ unlikely final appearance or Novak Djokovic’s pursuit of his first Grand Slam this year – has been shrouded in controversy after Wimbledon officials rejected players from Russia or Belarus: sports sanctions imposed. on some of the best in the world as penance for Russia’s military actions in Ukraine.

This was apparently done to prevent some of the world’s best players, such as Russia’s Daniil Medvedev or Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka, from triumphing at the heart of British sport, and to prevent any perceived public trouble that would follow.

How The Times states: “A review of the Duchess of Cambridge handing a Venus dish of rosewater to a Moscow-born player who represented Russia at junior level will be slightly spoiled.”

Surprising or not, after Rybakina beat former champion Simona Halep in their semi-final, fate has it that Kate Middleton could very well hand the silverware to the Russian-born woman and Aussie (Kyrgios) this weekend. on trial for alleged assault.

Guardianmeanwhile, called Rybakina’s exit to the final “a headache”.

“It was impossible not to be enchanted by Rybakina’s happiness and joy, as well as the quality of her tennis,” they said.

“However, behind the scenes and their pristine smiles, the Wimbledon suits are no doubt shuffling uneasily.”

Hardly the scenario the All England Club envisioned a few weeks ago – as some pointed out online.

However, Rybakina is keen to stress that her decision to represent Kazakhstan was clearly not a marriage of convenience to circumvent the ban on Russian athletes from Wimbledon by making the switch in 2018.

“I’ve been playing for Kazakhstan for a long time,” she said, referring to the geopolitical situation simmering under the surface of her very presence in London.

“I am very happy to represent Kazakhstan. They believed in me. There are no more questions about how I feel.”

Still, on the eve of the first Grand Slam match of her career, Rybakina is careful not to inflame politics and refuses to be drawn into the debate about her nationality or where she calls home.

Instead, she says that she is something of a wandering nomad.

“I think I’m based on the tour because I travel every week,” she said.

“I spend most of my time on tour. Between tournaments, I practice in Slovakia. There were camps in Dubai. So I honestly don’t live anywhere.”

Despite flying the Kazakh flag and showing off her credentials as a global citizen, Rybakina could nevertheless become the first Russian-born woman to win a Wimbledon singles tournament since Maria Sharapova stunned the world as a teenager in in 2004.

Despite all efforts to rid the Russians of this year’s tournament, Wimbledon still cannot escape Russian influence at the All England Club.



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