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LONDON: Born in Moscow but representing Kazakhstan, Elena Rybakina was crowned Wimbledon champion on Saturday at a tournament where her Russian compatriots were all banned.

Players from Russia and Belarus were prevented from competing at the All England Club after the invasion of Ukraine — including stars such as men’s world number one Daniil Medvedev and two-time Grand Slam winner Victoria Azarenka.

However, there were still plenty of Russians playing on the famous grass courts over the past two weeks who had switched allegiance to neighbouring Kazakhstan.

Rybakina, who defeated Ons Jabeur in three sets in Saturday’s final, opted to play under the Kazakh flag in 2018 when she was struggling at 175 in the world.

Four years on, the 23-year-old is Kazakhstan’s first Grand Slam champion and $2.4 million better off.

The shy, six feet tall (1.84 metre) Rybakina has grown tired, however, of fending off questions over her nationality.

“I’m playing for Kazakhstan for a long time. I’m really happy representing Kazakhstan,” the world number 23 said after seeing off former champion Simona Halep in the semi-finals.

“They believed in me. There is no more question about how I feel. It’s already a long time my journey as a Kazakh player.”

Rybakina opted not to discuss how much time she spends in Moscow, saying she trains in Slovakia and Dubai when not on tour.

“So I don’t live anywhere, to be honest,” added Rybakina, whose parents live in the Russian capital.

Rybakina is the Kazakhstan number one ahead of Yulia Putintseva, ranked at 33 and a three-time quarter-finalist at the majors. Putintseva was also born in Moscow.

Kazakhstan’s top three men are also from Russia — Alexander Bublik, Dmitry Popko and Mikhail Kukushkin.

Bublik made the third round at Wimbledon this year, equalling his best run at the tournament.

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