Kazakhstan Tennis Federation president Bulat Utemuratov on Sunday said Elena Rybakina’s success has been a long time in the making after she won the Wimbledon final to become the country’s first Grand Slam singles champion.
Rybakina fought back from a set down to overpower favourite Ons Jabeur on Saturday and claim a 3-6 6-2 6-2 victory in her first Grand Slam final. read more
The big-serving 23-year-old, who was born in Moscow and reportedly still lives there, switched allegiance to Kazakhstan four years ago to gain more financial support.
“She was able to show her great potential and an extremely high level of play against very strong opponents,” Utemuratov said. “But it was not a surprise. Elena had been improving on a consistent basis and heading towards this type of success for some time.
“There was a period in Elena’s tennis career at the age of 18 when she considered stopping. Help from our federation at a crucial time … proved to be effective, and we are glad that we were able to give her an opportunity to achieve her dreams.
“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.”
Utemuratov, who was present at Centre Court and cheering on Rybakina from her box, said he decided to travel to London after her quarter-final win over Ajla Tomljanovic as a show of support.
“I try to come and support (players) personally,” Utemuratov said. “It is a special feeling to be on the Centre Court of Wimbledon in the players’ box and to be able to actively support and cheer… The emotions today were just overwhelming.”
After her win, Rybakina made a point to highlight the support of Utemuratov.
“It’s just unbelievable. I’m super happy. I appreciate Mr. Bulat Utemuratov,” Rybakina told reporters on Saturday. “He came to watch and support me from the semis.
“He was always on the phone through the weeks, through the matches, supporting me. So I’m really, really grateful for everything.”
Reporting by Aadi Nair in Bengaluru