Why did Elena Rybakina change nationality?
Why did Elena Rybakina change her nationality from Russian to Kazakhstani?
According to Elena Rybakina herself, the switch to Kazakhstan opened up greater support to aid her in setting herself up as a WTA Tour professional.
In the wake of her Wimbledon win, prominent figures in Russian tennis tried to claim credit for Rybakina’s success.
“It’s very nice! Well done Rybakina! We win the Wimbledon tournament,” controversial Russian Tennis Chiefs Shamil Tarpischev said following her Wimbledon title win.
Russia’s former World No 1 Yevgeny Kafelnikov also scoffed at Rybakina’s designation as Kazakhstani.
“Buying a ready to use product from the producer does not take a lot of brains,” wrote retired Kafelnikov.
Rybakina has since set the record straight regarding how much of her success she feels she owes to the backing of Kazakhstan’s tennis federation.
“The transition from a junior to a professional career is very difficult,” Rybakina, told journalists in Kazakhstan according to Fox Sports Australia.
“A good team is needed. Not everyone is able to continue at professional level and achieve some successes. Only a small number (can) and in this way I am very lucky.
“So I am of course not really in agreement with that phrasing.”
Kazakh tennis federation’s deputy chief Yuri Polskiy also took a dim view of the Russian claims at the time.
“If it is the result of (Russia’s) work, why did they let her go so easily? In 2018, Shamil Tarpischev said himself that he did not consider Elena Rybakina a tennis player of promise,” Polskiy said.
“I think with that it’s time to put an end to this because there is too much hype around this subject.”
Rybakina saw the red carpet rolled out for her when she visited Astana for the first time after winning Wimbledon.
“I always feel the support of our compatriots. This is a great joy and responsibility for me.
“Yesterday, upon arrival in Kazakhstan, I saw how many people came to meet me. I still can’t believe what’s happening,” Rybakina said as she received a prestigious award from Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov.
Rybakina is far from the first Russian player to play for Kazakhstan but she appears to have already done more for the sport in the country than all of those who came before.
Russia currently has six players in the WTA’s top 50, and on top of being subject to sanctions and various bans, it is tough for a young player to get meaningful backing.
Rybakina has made it clear that the decision to make the switch wasn’t a tough call to make, given her desperate need for support to help her maintain a top-class support team.
She also appears eager to repay that support by giving them all the credit for helping her career take flight.
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