WTA’s trialling of performance-byes at the Pan-Pacific Open caused a bit of controversy as the world no.5 Elena Rybakina lashed out at the management for “changing the rules last moment”. Rybakina headed into the tournament expecting a first-round bye owing to her top-4 seeding. For context, WTA traditionally hands out the top four seeds first-round byes.
The performance-bye rule hands byes on the basis of performances in the preceding tournaments. The logic behind the decision is to help the players in case there’s a short turnaround time between consecutive tournaments. As a result, Maria Sakkari and Caroline Garcia, who are both ranked below Rybakina, earned a top-4 seeding ahead of the Kazakh due to their semi-final appearance at the Guadalajara Open.
Rybakina’s subsequent withdrawal from the tournament led to speculations that her not getting a bye was the reason behind the decision. The world no.5 put the speculations to rest as she addressed the rumors in a press conference at the China Open. “Well, for sure I’m focusing now just to play a little bit more matches because unfortunately I got sick again, & maybe no one knew it. New York was tough for me. After that, it was a couple of weeks to recover. That’s why now coming even to Tokyo, it was not the best for me maybe to play there. Now I’m just looking to play some matches. Of course, all the focus is going to the WTA Finals,” she told the press in Beijing.
The 24-year-old is among the four players to have qualified for the WTA year-end championship to be played in Cancun, Mexico later this year. World no.1 Aryna Sabalenka, 4-time Grand Slam champion Iga Swiatek and US Open champion Coco Gauff head the list.
Caroline Garcia and Maria Sakkari back WTA over the performance-byes controversy
Guadalajara Open champion Maria Sakkari backed the WTA over the performance-byes controversy saying that the rule wasn’t new and had been around for 14 years. Adding that the rule was temporarily suspended due to Covid the Greek said that the players had been aware of the rule since the players had to travel from Mexico to Japan. She further confirmed the presence of the rule for the upcoming China Open.
“It’s a really long journey from Mexico to Japan, and considering the time difference, you’ll lose two days,” world no.10 Caroline Garcia said, defending the WTA’s performance-byes trial. She went on to rebut Rybakina’s accusation of WTA “changing the rules last moment” echoing Sakkari’s words that the players were informed well in advance.
Some fans called out the discrepancies in the rule as Swiatek and Jessica Pegula were handed byes owing to their top-2 seeding. Both the players didn’t participate in any tournament since the US Open. The WTA resolved the issue at the WTA 1000 China Open as the byes were handed to all 4 semi-finalists at the Pan-Pacific Open: Jessica Pegula, Maria Sakkari, Veronika Kudermetova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. This means that the top 3 seeds: Sabalenka, Swiatek and Coco Gauff will play the first round.
Rybakina will begin her Asian hard-court swing at the China Open as she faces the Chinese pro Qinwen Zheng in the first round, tomorrow.
Angira Shah is the Content Writer for the Tennis department at FirstSportz. Studying BE Computer Science at BITS Pilani Hyderabad campus, this is his first experience of the content writing world.
Angira's favorite part of the game is the opportunity to play. Therefore, he took the opportunity offered by FirstSportz to materialise his interest in the game of Tennis. He's a huge FC Barcelona, Messi and Nadal fan.
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