Wimbledon queen discusses Russian origins
Elena Rybakina represented Russia until switching to Kazakhstan in 2018
Recently-crowned Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina has responded to questions on whether she considers herself to be a product of Russian tennis, while revealing she is targeting a world number one ranking spot.
The 23-year-old became the first-ever Grand Slam champion representing Kazakhstan at the weekend by beating Ons Jabeur at the All England Club to take home £2 million ($2.4 million) in prize money.
Muscovite Rybakina took up Kazakhstan citizenship in 2018 with the prospect of more funding, but also became the first Russian-born singles champion at Wimbledon since Maria Sharapova in 2004.
At a press conference in Nur-Sultan to celebrate her achievements on Tuesday, where she showed off her Kazakhstani passport, Rybakina was asked to remark on whether she was a product of Russian tennis before switching to Kazakhstan, as claimed previously by Russian Tennis Federation (RTF) president Shamil Tarpischev.
“I believe that, of course, I was a junior in the first place, and it’s impossible to call me a finished product, because the transition from juniors to an adult professional career is difficult,” Rybakina noted.
“In addition to the fact that you should have a good team around you, not everyone manages to continue at a professional level at all. But it seems to me that only a few reach some heights.
“And I’m very lucky in this regard. Therefore, of course, I don’t quite agree with such a phrase,” she said.
These comments caught the attention of Tarpischev again, who remarked: “Naturally, what else can she say?”
“She trained with us for 11 years, [so] whose product [is she] then?” he posed.
“Let her say that she never trained anywhere and became a champion…
“Understand [that] everyone protects the side where they are. I wouldn’t answer at all. It makes no sense,” Tarpischev claimed to Championat.
Speaking to Match TV, Kazakhstan Tennis Federation (KTF) vice-president Yury Polsky said that he considered it “inappropriate to use the term ‘product’” since “we are talking about a person who is not stamped at the factory, to which you need to find an approach and keys.”
“Coaches and even the president of the federation did a lot of this. Elena herself did a great job, as well as her parents. The merits of the RTF in this regard are minimal, although Russia’s competitive environment certainly played a role in the early stages,” he confessed.
Now boasting a first Grand Slam under her belt, Rybakina is targeting the number one WTA spot currently occupied by Iga Swiatek.
With the WTA and ATP stripping Wimbledon of ranking points due to the tournament’s ban on Russians, Rybakina’s triumph in London meant she stayed in her current number 23 position.
“In just a couple of days, I will start preparing for the tournaments that will be held in the United States,” she revealed.
“This year the goal was to get into the world top 10. The ultimate goal is to be number one. I will strive for this and work,” she vowed, while being awarded the Dostyk Order of grade II by Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov.