Russian-born star reaches Wimbledon quarterfinals


Elena Rybakina is into a first-ever quarterfinal at the grass court showpiece

Russian tennis players have been banned from Wimbledon this summer but one star born in the country remains in contention at the tournament after Elena Rybakina booked a spot in the women’s singles quarterfinals.

Rybakina defeated Croatia’s Petra Martic in their fourth-round meeting on Monday, meaning the 23-year-old will at the very least match the quarterfinal run she achieved at the French Open last year, which was previously her best performance in the singles of a Grand Slam.

The Moscow-born Rybakina represents Kazakhstan but played as a Russian until 2018. She made the switch after being offered Kazakh citizenship and the promise of more funding from the tennis authorities in the country.  

Rybakina is one of a host of Russian-born players to have taken the path to Kazakhstan in recent years.

Fellow women’s star Yulia Putintseva – a three-time Grand Slam quarter-finalist – is another example, while in the men’s game Alexander Bublik, Mikhail Kukushkin, and Dmitry Popko were all born in Russia but now represent Kazakhstan.

The frequency of players switching nationalities has led to the somewhat derogatory phrase ‘Rent-a-Russian’ entering some tennis reports.

World number 23 Rybakina boasts two WTA Tour titles to her name and has racked up prize money of more than $3.5 million.

Seeded 17th at this year’s Wimbledon, she will meet the winner of the match between France’s Alize Cornet and Australian Ajla Tomljanovic in the quarterfinal on Wednesday.

Cornet stunned top seed Iga Swiatek in the previous round, ending the Polish top seed’s 37-match winning streak.

While Rybakina’s change of nationality came long before the ban imposed on Russian and Belarusian players by Wimbledon because of the conflict in Ukraine, there was considerable talk surrounding the case of women’s doubles specialist Natela Dzalamidze leading into this year’s tournament.

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(Photo by Alex Nicodim/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Tennis ace explains decision to drop Russian nationality

The 29-year-old lined up in London after swapping her nationality from Russian to Georgian in the weeks prior to the event.

That led to suspicions that Dzalamidze had done so purely to swerve the ban, although the player herself denied those claims.

Dzalamidze explained that she already had a Georgian passport through her father, and had long harbored dreams of playing for the country at the Olympics – something which precipitated a switch this year to potentially be eligible ahead of the Paris Games in 2024.

Dzalamidze’s involvement at Wimbledon came to an end on Saturday as she and Serbian doubles partner Aleksandra Krunic were beaten in the second round by British pairing Heather Watson and Harriet Dart.

Elsewhere, it was reported that UK tennis has been fined $1 million by the WTA for its refusal to allow Russian and Belarusian players to appear at events in Britain this summer. 

The WTA and men’s counterpart the ATP had already stripped Wimbledon of its rankings points as a punishment.

READ MORE: UK tennis fined $1 million for Russian ban – media

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