Elena Rybakina hits out at WTA over Japan Open draw changes

Elena Rybakina

Elena Rybakina was less than thrilled to learn that the WTA will be trialling ‘performance byes’ at the Tokyo Open.

Rybakina learned of the change shortly before the draw which saw her bracketed to face Linda Noskova in the first round.

The change means that Rybakina will now be pressed into action on Monday.

Performance byes were handed to Maria Sakkari, who would have earned a bye as a top four seed anyway following the withdrawal of Marketa Vobdrousova, and fifth seed Caroline Garcia who was a beaten semi-finalist in Guadalajara.

“Performance bye. Thank you for changing the rules last moment. Great decisions as always WTA,” Rybakina wrote on X.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenko or Donna Vekic will await in the second round should Rybakina take her frustrations out on Noskova.

Rybakina’s potential path to the final in Tokyo includes a possible quarter-final meeting with defending champion and seventh seed Liudmila Samsonova.

The top two seeds, Iga Swiatek and Jessica Pegula will still earn first round byes.

Swiatek’s first assignment will be a round of 16 clash with the winner of an all-Japanese first round between Mai Hontama and Nao Hibino.

If seeding holds in the top quarter, Swiatek will face Veronika Kudermetova in the last eight in Tokyo.

Swiatek might get another showdown with Rybakina if both players are able to secure themselves passage to the semi-finals. As a result of the WTA’s last-minute changes Rybakina will have to win an extra match to earn that showdown.

The two players who have been given performance byes are also on a quarter-final collision course, with Sakkari seeded fourth and Garcia fifth.

Sakkari and Garcia will each need to win once to book that rematch of the Guadalajara semi-final which the former won in straight sets.

Garcia will open her tournament against either San Diego champion Ashlyn Krueger or Anhelina Kalinina.

Sakkari will take on the winner of the first round meeting between home hope Misaki Doi and Petra Martic.

Russian sixth seed Daria Kasatkina is seeded to be No 2 seed Pegula’s last eight opponent but will have to defeat Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in t.he first round.

Pegula’s first opponent will be either Japan’s Rina Saigo or Spain’s Cristina Bucsa.

Kasatkina or Kostyuk will go on to face the winner of the opening round encounter between Natsumi Kawaguchi and Despina Papamichail.

The WTA 500 Tokyo Open gets underway on Monday 25 September 2023.

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