A fortnight of chaos will end with one woman writing her name in the history books as Ons Jabeur and Elena Rybakina face off for the Wimbledon title. From Tunisia, Jabeur became the first African and Arab woman to reach a Grand Slam singles final when she outlasted good friend Tatjana Maria, while Elena Rybakina became the first Kazakh to pass even the quarterfinal stage, and went one better when she stunned 2019 champ Simona Halep in the semis.

Saturday’s final presents a stylistic contrast for the ages: Rybakina’s pure power and introvert attitude will go up against Jabeur’s all-court craft and amiable improvisation. The pair have split their two completed matches, with both going the distance in 2019 and 2021.

Who has the edge on Centre Corut? Here’s why both women have an equal shot at their maiden major victory:


Why Rybakina Will Win

Where might Rybakina already be were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic? The Russian-born Kazakh was charging up the rankings from the summer of 2019, and by the start of 2020 was the player of the first quarter. She won 21 of her first 25 matches and reached four WTA finals, winning one title in Hobart while finishing runner-up in Shenzhen, St. Petersburg, and Dubai, where she lost what was then the biggest final of her career to Simona Halep in a third-set tiebreaker.

Then came the tour lockdown and the end of the youngster’s blistering momentum.

“After corona, after this long period, it was very difficult to come back,” she said after ending Halep’s 12-match Wimbledon winning streak on Thursday. “During pandemic, I didn't practice at all. It wasn't easy.

“Then some health problems like injuries, sick, allergies. It kept on happening. I was, like, very upset, of course.”

She regained some of her rhythm by the spring of 2021, scoring a no-nonsense upset of 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams and finishing just off the Olympic podium in Tokyo, but a case of COVID-19 stunted her progress in 2022 despite another bright start with a finals run in Adelaide.

“My coach was always telling me that, ‘You don't have to wait when you're going to be in the perfect shape. You going to win no matter how you feel. You just need to keep working and keep improving.’”

We are going, like, together in this journey. I think it's just amazing to think that you are making history. Elena Rybakina on Ons Jabeur

And improve she has. Rybakina’s no-frills technique and awesome power combines the past and present of the women’s game, helping her barrel through impressive opposition throughout her first six matches at the All England Club.

Dropping just one set to the championship match, Rybakina can arrive on Centre Court with a clear game plan: first-strike tennis. The 23-year-old will need a serving day worthy of the WTA’s current Ace Leader to keep Jabeur off balance and open up the court for her laser-like winners.

The notoriously calm Kazakh will likely betray no nerves as she steps to the line on key points, which have typically gone her way through wins over CoCo Vandeweghe, Bianca Andreescu, and Halep, against whom she converted four of nine break point opportunities to blitz the former No. 1 in straight sets.

Jabeur will present a unique challenge, but Rybakina is as familiar with her opponent as anyone can ever be.

“I remember I met Ons first time I think when we were playing WTA maybe 125K,” she recalled. “I came for the first time with my dad and I met her. She was very nice to help me to find the club because she had a car. I remember how I met Ons.

“What she achieved already, it's happening, like, in front of my eyes. We are going, like, together in this journey. I think it's just amazing to think that you are making history.”


Why Jabeur Will Win

The No. 3 seed is no stranger to making history, but she wasn’t an obvious pick to reach the final—especially after a heartbreaking early exit at Roland Garros, where she was favored by many to win the title.

Jabeur shook off that disappointment in some style on grass, picking up a third career title in Berlin and made the most of a broken Wimbledon draw to reach her first Grand Slam final only a month behind schedule.

“Going to the French Open, I really felt that pressure of everybody expecting me to do well,” she admitted before the tournament. “I wasn't used to that. Just invisible player going to Grand Slams, doing well sometimes.

“I tried to learn from that, not overplay, not play a lot of matches on grass, just prepare myself for the main goal. For me the main goal was Wimbledon even before the year starts.”

A quarterfinalist at the All England Club in 2021, the clay-courting Jabeur has once again proven why her game is such a natural fit for grass, and that her mental improvements—aided by a sports psychologist—make her a clear contender for Grand Slams on all surfaces.

One of the things that I hate is disappoint myself. I hope I will not do that. I'm all the way there. There is one match left, so hopefully I'll give it all. Ons Jabeur


“I did a lot of times imagine myself giving the good speech, holding the trophy, seeing the trophy. I did all of it. Now I need really to hold the trophy. That's the only thing left for me. But I believe in that. I know that I can do it.

“One of the things that I hate is disappoint myself. I hope I will not do that. I'm all the way there. There is one match left, so hopefully I'll give it all.”

Luckily for Jabeur, she has all to give. If Plan A fails—as it did in her quarterfinal against Marie Bouzkova—there’s Plans B-Z for the player with every shot in her arsenal. While Rybakina has one path to victory, Jabeur is spoiled for choice, which may have overwhelmed her in the past.

More mature and mentally strong, the 27-year-old Tunisian will undoubtedly leave the Centre Court crowd breathless, but will it be enough to secure the Venus Rosewater Dish?

DK’s Pick: Jabeur