Elena Rybakina: How is a Russian-born player in the Wimbledon final?

Born in Moscow, Rybakina is one match away from winning Wimbledon in a year where Russians are banned from competing

Jamie Braidwood
Thursday 07 July 2022 18:13 BST
Elena Rybakina is through to her first grand slam final
Elena Rybakina is through to her first grand slam final (AFP via Getty Images)
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A Wimbledon which has seen Russian players banned from competing could yet see a Russian-born winner, after Elena Rybakina advanced to Saturday’s women’s final and moved one match away from victory at the All England Club.

Rybakina, who was born in Moscow but now represents Kazakhstan after switching international allegiances four years ago, crushed former Wimbledon champion Simona Halep in straight sets in the semi-finals to set up a meeting with Ons Jabeur.

The 23-year-old will be competing in her first grand slam final but her tournament run at SW19 could come as a huge embarrassment to the All England Club, who took the decision to ban players from Russia and Belarus from the Championships following the invasion of Ukraine.

Rybakina first represented Kazakhstan four years ago after accepting financial support from the country to help her tennis career. She also competed under the Kazakhstan flag at the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year but when asked whether she felt Kazak or Russia this week, the world number 23 said it was “tough” to say.

“I was born in Russia, but of course I am representing Kazakhstan,” Rybakina said. “It’s already a long journey for me. I was playing Olympics, Fed Cup before. I got so much help and support. For me it’s a tough question just to say exactly what I feel.”

In explaining their decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players in April, Wimbledon organisers said: “Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.

“In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.”

Top-ranked players such as the US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and the former women’s number two Aryna Sabalenka were unable to compete as a result.

“Everybody wants to compete,” Rybakina said. “They were not choosing where they were born. Of course, I feel it for them because everybody wants to compete at the biggest tournament, at Wimbledon. I just hope that next year is going to be back to normal.”

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