Moscow-born Elena Rybakina will have support in Russia despite now representing Kazakhstan
Wimbledon women’s finalist Elena Rybakina can still count on strong support in Russia even though she now represents Kazakhstan, says the president of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpischev.
Rybakina, 23, is aiming for a maiden Grand Slam title when she takes on Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur at the All England Club on Saturday.
Rybakina’s story has been among the most remarkable at this year’s grass court showpiece in London, not least because of the ban imposed on Russian players ahead of the tournament.
Rybakina was born in Moscow and represented Russia at junior level and on the WTA tour, before switching allegiances to Kazakhstan in 2018 after the promise of more funding for her tennis dream.
Despite Rybakina potentially being considered as one that got away for Russian tennis, Tarpischev still views the star as a product of the system in her homeland and says she will have plenty of support.
“It’s nice that Elena will play in the Wimbledon final, she is our product. Of course we will cheer for her,” said Tarpischev.
The Russian tennis chief acknowledged that Rybakina had been tempted to Kazakhstan with the prospect of more funding – something other Russian-born stars such as Yulia Putintseva have also done in recent years.
“This is natural. At some point, the financial issue was resolved… Everyone has the right to make their own choice. We will be supporting Elena, good luck to her,” Tarpischev added.
There have been suggestions that Rybakina’s presence in the final poses an awkward dilemma for organizers at SW19 considering their ban on Russian players because of the conflict in Ukraine.
When asked if it wasn’t the sort of female final that Wimbledon was dreaming of, Tarpischev replied: “In my opinion, they don’t dream of anything anymore.”
Rybakina will be flying the flag for Kazakhstan on Saturday, although she could nonetheless become the first Russian-born woman to win a Wimbledon singles crown since Maria Sharapova shocked the world as a teenager back in 2004.
Seeded 17th, the big-serving Rybakina will head into her match against number three seed Jabeur as the outsider, but will draw upon a career-best Grand Slam run which saw her sweep past former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in straight sets in the semifinal.