Elena Rybakina on Winning Wimbledon: “It’s a Fairy Tale”

Once upon a time, a girl was born in Moscow who dreamed of winning Wimbledon. She worked hard on her serve and groundstrokes, then knocked on doors of the rich and privileged for help. “Too tall, too slow, too clumsy,” the Russian prince said. “Good enough for us,” the Prince of Kazakhstan said. Money was involved, a move to another country, a commitment to change flags, nationalities.

It was not foretold, but then it happens: Russia invades Ukraine. So many bombs drop that Wimbledon bans all Russians and Belarusians from the grandest of balls: Aryna, Victoria, Daria, Veronika, Ludmilla, Ekaterina . . . Elena, however, was allowed to play.

Three good witches waited and watched.  Ash from Australia, Iga from Poland, Ons from the Islamic world.* Iga speaks out against Russia’s invasion so close to her Polish lands. Ash retires to get married, raise a family. Ons spreads so much love throughout the world she is known as the Minister of Happiness. She will oppose Elena in the Wimbledon final. Everyone roots for Ons, for happiness, for if she wins then all girls’ dreams in the Islamic world have a greater chance of coming true. 

But this is Elena’s fairy tale, for she has the best serve in the world and wickedly powerful, consistent groundstrokes. Some say she does not smile enough. Some say she is not pretty enough. Some say she is not marketable enough. If her dreams keep coming true, some will call her an ice queen, an assassin.

*These three good witches are: Ash Barty, the previous year’s Wimbledon champion and world #1; Iga Swiatek, the current #1 player in the world; Ons Jabeur, who did lose to Elena in the Wimbledon final. Ons is arguably the most important female role model in the Islamic world.

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