December 10, 2023

Elena Rybakina: The Russian Tennis Star Who Plays For Kazakhstan

Elena Rybakina

Elena Rybakina is the best tennis player from Kazakhstan and one of the best players in the world. The tall, graceful, and elegant Elena Rybakina is actually Russian by birth. However, as she was unable to find sufficient financial support in Russia, Elena Rybakina’s father moved to Kazakhstan and then the soft spoken Rybakina’s game just took off. Most recently, thanks to reaching the final of the Australian Open 2023 in tennis, Elena Rybakina made her maiden entry into the WTA Top 10. In this post, we will find out more about Elena Rybakina. Let’s get started.

Elena Rybakina: All You Need To Know

When was Elena Rybakina born?

Elena Rybakina was born in Moscow on June 17, 1999. The athlete spent her childhood and youth on the courts of Belokamenka, changing several sports schools, among which were Dynamo and Spartak. Before tennis, Rybakina tried gymnastics and figure skating. However, she soon grew too tall for both these sports and had to give them up.

However, the father of the future winner of Wimbledon, Andrei Rybakin, did not allow his daughter’s sports career to be ruined and took her to tennis. Her incredible height and reach, which were a drawback in gymnastics and figure skating, helped Elena Rybakina a lot on the tennis court. He was not mistaken in choosing the right sport for his child, as he later was not mistaken in another very important issue – the choice of citizenship for Elena. Since 2018, Rybakina has been performing under the flag of Kazakhstan.

Why does Elena Rybakina play for Kazakhstan?

In the summer of 2021, the host of the Match TV channel, Sofia Tartakova, on her Twitter page, was outraged that Russia had missed the talented tennis player Elena Rybakina. The athlete’s father repeatedly asked the Russian Tennis Federation to help his daughter but achieved nothing. As a result, Elena is now winning on the court as a representative of Kazakhstan.

The Rybakins decided to change their passport for Lena after unsuccessful attempts to find a sponsor in Russia. The family’s income was not enough to travel to tournaments. Elena Rybakia’s father, the producer of the NTV-Plus television channel, could not fully cover all the expenses of his tennis player daughter. After all, this is not only financing trips to competitions, it is also an expensive rental of courts and payment for the work of a team of coaches. In her interviews, Elena always thanks her family for their support and admits that thanks to her father she has achieved success in tennis.

What is Elena Rybakina’s personality like?

Elena Rybakina would not have succeeded as an athlete without her unique character. The specialists who trained the athlete spoke of her as a hardworking, purposeful, disciplined, educated, and mentally developed girl. During training and performances, Rybakina never dropped out of school, as many professional athletes usually do. She studied hard and was an excellent student in school.

How did Elena Rybakina perform after becoming a Kazakh citizen?

After the transition of Rybakina under the banner of the Tennis Federation of Kazakhstan (FTK), the results were not long in coming. The leadership of the FTC, headed by Bulat Utemuratov, did everything possible so that the athlete could adequately represent the country in major tournaments. Here are some statistics: in 2018, still in the status of a Russian woman, Rybakina started the season at the 425th line of the WTA rating, and finished it, already representing Kazakhstan, at the 191st place. In 2019, Elena won her first WTA tournament in Bucharest and finished in 37th position in the world ranking. After a successful performance in the capital of Romania, Rybakina signed her first serious contract with a sponsor.

At the beginning of 2020, at a tournament in Hobart, Australia, Rybakina won her second WTA title. That season was very successful for Elena, she reached the finals of the WTA series tournaments four times. As a result, Rybakina finished the year in 19th place in the rankings. Such a high ranking had never been achieved by any of the representatives of Kazakhstan.

The highlight of 2021, a truly breakthrough year in Elena’s career, was her victory over the legend Serena Williams in the fourth round of the French Open (6-4, 7-5). True, the Kazakhstani did not manage to develop her success on the clay courts of Paris. Already in the quarterfinals, Elena Rybakina was stopped by Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (7-6, 2-6, 7-9). At the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the best tennis player of Kazakhstan took fourth place, losing in the match for bronze to Ukrainian Elina Svitolina (6-1, 6-7, 4-6).

In 2022, Rybakina scored her most significant career victory so far. In July, Elena won the most prestigious and oldest tournament in the world – Wimbledon. In the final game, she defeated Ons Jaber from Tunisia with a score of 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. The triumph of the representative of Kazakhstan at the Grand Slam tournament became a sensation. In Kazakhstan, Elena became a superstar and an idol for beginner tennis players. After the final match with Ons Jaber, always restrained and emotionally balanced Elena, could not hold back her tears at the awards ceremony.

“I was insanely nervous before the match and during it. I’m just glad it’s over. I have never experienced such stress. I want to thank the audience for their support, my opponent in the final. Playing with Ons is a real pleasure. I ran so much that I don’t even need to do physical training anymore. To be honest, I did not expect that I would go out in the second week, and even that I would win the title – and even more so. I don’t have words to describe how happy I am. I would not have succeeded without my team. I want to thank them very much. And the President of the Tennis Federation of Kazakhstan, who was at the semifinals and the finals. This is an incredible support. And, of course, the most important people in my life are my parents. Without them, I would definitely not be here,” Rybakina said at the awards ceremony.

Why didn’t Elena Rybakina crack the top 10 after her Wimbledon triumph?

Thanks to the victory at Wimbledon 2022, Rybakina was able to get into the top 5 of the WTA rankings and take part in the final tournament of the year. But due to the fact that Wimbledon was sanctioned by the Women’s Tennis Association, points earned at the English Grand Slam were not taken into account. Thus, Elena Rybakina missed over 2,000 ranking points. But no one could take away the $2.5 million in prize money she had earned. Elena donated part of this money to charity. It is noteworthy that the athlete refused the cash award from the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation, saying that she had earned quite a lot for the victory.

How has Elena Rybakina’s 2023 season been so far?

In the 2023 season, the Kazakhstani tennis player broke into an impressive, reaching the final of the season’s first Grand Slam tournament – the Australian Open. In the decisive match, Rybakina, unfortunately, lost to Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka (6-4, 3-6, 4-6).

During the quarterfinals, she beat Latvian Elena Ostapenko in two sets, whom she met on the court for the third time in her career, and won for the first time. Thus, she managed to reach the semi final of the tournament, where Elena defeated the Belarusian Victoria Azarenka and reached the final of the Australian Open for the first time. In the final game, she had to play with the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka. Elena Rybakina started the match strongly and won the first set 6-4. However, Sabalenka rallied and won the next two sets to lift the title. 

Nevertheless, at the Australian Open-2023, the Kazakh woman managed to become the owner of the fastest serve, her speed was 195 km/h.

And let Elena’s successful performance in Melbourne be only the beginning of her successful path through the season and the continuation of the growth of her professional career. 

In April, Elena Rybakina reached the semi-finals of the WTA 1000 tournament in Miami, beating Italian Martina Trevisan in the quarters. Unfortunately, she lost the final in straight sets to Petra Kvitova.

However, Elena Rybakina eventually managed to win her first WTA 1000 tournament soon after that. Elena Rybakina won the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells. In a stroke of poetic justice, Elena Rybakina defeated Aryna Sabalenka in the final.

The Russian tennis star also has a sister, Anna, with whom Elena was engaged in gymnastics and figure skating in early childhood. At the age of 6, the father brought his daughters to the court. Anya did not like running around with a racket, but Lena liked it.

Now the athlete in an interview emphasizes that she is glad that she made a choice in favor of tennis. This sport is more objective than gymnastics and figure skating. In addition, Elena, having matured, became excessively tall for somersaults and axles. Elena Rybakina is currently 184 cm tall.

How did Elena Rybakina balance tennis and school?

In order to balance studies and tennis, Rybakina attended evening school in high school. Lessons began at half past five in the evening and ended after nine. Elena’s parents believed that their daughter should pay a lot of attention to her studies and subsequently graduate from the university, and tennis was considered a hobby, not a profession.

Elena Rybakina: Tennis Career

In the life of the tennis player for a long time, there were no major victories. In 2017, Elena made her debut at the VTB Kremlin Cup tournament. At the end of 2017, two-time Grand Slam winner Yevgeny Kafelnikov drew attention to Rybakina’s talent.

In June 2018, Elena changed her sports citizenship and now plays for Kazakhstan. Croatian Stefano Vukov became the coach of the native of Moscow, and her career took off sharply.

At the beginning of 2020, Elena competed in four WTA singles tournament finals and won one of them. The girl entered the top 20 of world tennis, which is a significant achievement for racket masters from Kazakhstan.

In June 2021, in the pre-quarter finals of the Roland Garros tournament, Rybakina beat the experienced and exalted American Serena Williams in two sets. In the quarterfinals, the tennis player representing Kazakhstan lost to Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.

Two weeks later, in the match of the first round of the grass tennis tournament in British Eastbourne, Elena defeated the hostess of the tournament Harriet Dart, and in the second round, she defeated the Ukrainian Elina Svitolina. In early July 2021, in the fourth round of Wimbledon, Rybakina lost to Belarusian tennis player Aryna Sabalenka.

Rybakina went to the Olympics in Tokyo as part of the Kazakhstan national team and regarded the chances of a successful performance as good. After beating Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, Elena reached the semi-finals of the competition, where she lost to Belinda Bencic. In the match for the bronze medal, Elena Rybakina lost to Elina Svitolina.

In July 2022, Rybakina had a chance to win Wimbledon. Having beaten the Romanian Simona Halep in the semi-final, she met with Ons Jaber in the final. Experts’ predictions came true – Elena Rybakina really defeated Zhaber and became the winner of Wimbledon for the first time. Before that, not a single player from Kazakhstan (male or female) had won a grand slam.

Elena Rybakina: Career Accomplishments

  • 2014 – Finalist of the Ozerov Cup
  • 2014 – Winner of the open championship of Siberia
  • 2015 – Winner of the Ozerov Cup
  • 2016 – Winner of the Yeltsin Cup
  • 2016 – Canadian Open Junior Champion
  • 2017 – Winner of the Torneo Bonfiglio tournament
  • 2019 – Winner of the Bucharest Open Championship
  • 2019 – Finalist in the Jiangxi Open Championship
  • 2020 – Winner of the International Tennis Tournament in Hobart (Australia)
  • 2020 – Shenzhen Open finalist
  • 2020 – Finalist in the St. Petersburg Trophy tournament
  • 2020 – Finalist in the Dubai Open
  • 2020 – Finalist in the international tennis tournament in Strasbourg
  • 2022 – Wimbledon winner
  • 2023 – Australian Open finalist
  • 2023 – Miami Open finalist
  • 2023 – BNP Paribas Open (Indian Wells) winner

Elena Rybakina: Personal life

Little is known about Rybakina’s personal life. She does have a beagle named Mulia.

In the Instagram account (the social network is banned in the Russian Federation, it belongs to the Meta corporation, which is recognized as extremist in the Russian Federation), tennis players are dominated by photos from the competition. However, being in forced self-isolation due to the coronavirus pandemic, Elena posted a video report on the joint baking of cookies with her sister on the internet. Elena Rybakina’s sister is far more popular on social media and she keeps sharing pictures of herself in bikinis.

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