Elena Rybakina was mad. She expressed it within the method most snug to her.
“Thank you for changing the rules last moment,” Rybakina wrote in an Instagram story final month, alongside a clapping emoji. “Great decisions as always @wta.” She ended with a circus tent and clown-face emojis.
Rybakina, who will likely be making her debut within the season-ending WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico, on Sunday, had arrived in Tokyo for a match anticipating, because the No. 3 seed, to obtain a bye. That meant one much less match to play and some days of additional relaxation.
But, due to a fairly technical WTA rule, Maria Sakkari and Caroline Garcia, who had simply reached the semifinals at a match in Guadalajara, Mexico, and had an extended distance to journey earlier than the beginning in Tokyo, got what’s referred to as “performance byes.” That meant that Rybakina not had a free go into the second spherical.
So, after the draw was already made, Rybakina withdrew from the match. She stated, on the time, it was due to a lingering sickness that had plagued her because the summer time. (Rybakina declined to be interviewed for this text.)
It was not the primary time that Rybakina discovered herself drawn into controversy. After her semifinal win over Victoria Azarenka on the Australian Open in January, she defended her longtime coach, Stefano Vukov, when he was criticized for yelling at her midmatch.
“He is a passionate coach with a lot of knowledge about tennis,” Rybakina — who misplaced the Australian ultimate to Aryna Sabalenka in three units — wrote in an Instagram publish, responding to the commentary. “Those who know me well, will know that I would never accept a coach that didn’t respect me and all our hard work.”
Then, throughout a match in Montreal in August, Rybakina went on the offensive after a persistent rain delay pressured her to start her quarterfinal match after 11 p.m. Her match towards Daria Kasatkina (which she finally gained) didn’t finish till nearly 3 a.m. She then misplaced her ensuing semifinal and complained of niggling accidents.
This sort of grumbling is uncommon for Rybakina, 24, who sometimes goes about her business on court docket with little indication of what she is pondering or feeling.
“Elena is so professional and very focused, and she really controls her emotions,” stated her agent, Nicholas Tzekos. “You have to spend quantity time with her to get to the quality. But when she does smile, it’s as if she’s giving a giant hug to the whole audience.”
Rybakina’s sport is buoyed by her six-foot body and a staggering serve that has routinely been clocked within the mid-120 m.p.h. vary, in addition to a forehand that she will redirect into the furthest corners of the court docket.
“Her serve is amazing,” stated Billie Jean King, who will welcome Rybakina to the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Seville, Spain, days after the WTA Finals. “Her forehand gets a little dodgy sometimes, but she’s always going to be a threat because she loves to play and she believes in herself.”
Rybakina had her huge breakthrough at Wimbledon final yr, defeating Ons Jabeur for the title. The Moscow-born Rybakina had been representing Russia, however selected as an alternative to begin enjoying for Kazakhstan in 2018; she gained Wimbledon whereas competing for the Central Asian nation.
That yr, the match had banned Russian and Belarusian gamers due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The WTA then opted to not award rating factors for Wimbledon, which means that Rybakina, regardless of being the most effective gamers that season, did not qualify for the 2022 WTA Finals in Fort Worth.
This yr, Rybakina, ranked No. 4 and seeded 4th on the Finals, has gained two tournaments, the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells, the place she beat the world’s prime two gamers, Iga Swiatek and Sabalenka, in succession, and the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. With three wins over Swiatek and one over Sabalenka, she is one in all simply two WTA gamers since 2000 to have 4 wins over world No. 1s in the identical season.
The different was Serena Williams.