2022 Wimbledon Champion and World No. 5 Elena Rybakina found herself in unfamiliar territory as she was left out of the top-4 seeding and didn’t receive a first-round bye at the WTA 500 Pan Pacific Open. Although Maria Sakkari and Caroline Garcia are both ranked below Rybakina, they earned a top-4 seeding ahead of the Kazakh due to the WTA’s trialing of performance byes in Tokyo.
For context, performance byes allow players who have performed well the previous week to directly enter the second round of the following tournament, so they have more time to adjust to the new time zone and conditions.
Rybakina took to Instagram to hit out at the WTA for “changing the rules last moment”. Serena Williams’ former coach and ESPN analyst Rennae Stubbs backed Elena Rybakina and asked the WTA to change the rules. “I agree 100% with Rybakina! You pick your own schedule. You know what you’re risking; seeds should not be hurt for not playing the tournament the week before. @WTA,” she wrote on social media site ‘X’.
Subsequently, Rybakina withdrew from the tournament. Issuing a statement, “I’m really sorry to have to withdraw from Tokyo this year. I was really looking forward to playing at the event and I love the city. I have to prioritize my health and fitness and need time to get to 100 percent health.”
Seeded 5th for the tournament, Rybakina was drawn to face Linda Noskova in the Tokyo first round. She last played at the US Open, where Sorana Cirstea upset the Kazakh 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 in the round of 32.
Elena Rybakina became the third WTA player to qualify for the 2023 WTA Finals, joining the world’s top two players, Aryna Sabalenkaand Iga Swiatek, who have both secured places in the elite eight. The Kazakh pro reached the final of the Australian Open earlier this year. She defeated former World No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the fourth round. However, despite winning the first set, Rybakina ultimately lost the championship match to Sabalenka.
At Indian Wells, Rybakina avenged her loss to Sabalenka in the final of the Australian Open as she lifted her first WTA 1000 title. In the semifinals, she moved past the defending champion, Świątek, in straight sets for the second time in the year. She defeated Swiatek for the third time in Rome, where she lifted her first WTA 1000 clay title.
However, strangely, her performances in Grand Slams have been somewhat underwhelming. She pulled out of the French Open due to a respiratory illness. At Wimbledon as the defending champion, Rybakina reached the quarterfinals, where she lost to Ons Jabeurin three sets. This was followed by a third-round exit at the recently concluded US Open.
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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