Elena Rybakina feels like she’s ‘not the Wimbledon champion,’ says life as champion ‘not the greatest’
Elena Rybakina felt, for once, like herself after playing some of her best tennis at Wimbledon. But still, ‘I wonder – I don’t like all these comments. Even if I am not the champion, I am still in this tournament feeling very good.’ (Hannah McKay/Tennis Australia)
Elena Rybakina never expected to play tennis at Wimbledon. Then, when she was accepted into the junior girls team to compete in the prestigious tournament, she was thrilled.
On the day of her selection, coach Yana Tsibyan asked her where she was from and what her mother’s name was.
“I said, ‘I was born in Moscow, Russia and I am named after my father’s favourite ball.’ But he didn’t say, ‘I’m sorry.'”
As she had expected, the selection committee put her on the team. When she played in the Junior Open last year, she was nervous but it felt great to win her first tournament.
In late February, however, a comment allegedly made by her coach was the start of a period of doubt for Rybakina.
“The coach told my mother I was better than her and that made me upset. He never said it to me,” said Rybakina, who is part of the girls’ team.
“It was very difficult for me because I played good, I played well. It had nothing to do with me being faster, or better.”
The coach allegedly told Rybakina’s mother that she should “have played in different tournaments and won different tournaments”.
Rybakina was 18 in 2012 when she competed in her first junior championships in Poland. It was a victory for her and for tennis in general, which she felt, by that stage had lost its sense of joy and fun. “I remember that time,” she said.
“Even today, I would still have fun but not to win. There were no victories. I still look at that time and it hurts me a lot.”
The comment, said Rybakina, “made me feel like I was not the champion, but still, I am in this tournament feeling very good.
“Every athlete has doubts,” she added. “