Elena Rybakina reveals she is ‘still in pain’ as Katie Boulter misses big rankings chance

Kevin Palmer
Elena Rybakina fighting illness in Miami
Elena Rybakina fighting illness in Miami

Elena Rybakina has revealed she is ‘still in pain’ from the problem that forced her to withdraw from the Indian Wells tournament earlier this month.

Rybakina was defending champion at Indian Wells and her withdrawal was a big blow to her WTA ranking, but she has returned to action at the Miami Open and moved into the quarter-finals with an impressive 6-3 7-5 win against No 17 seed Madison Keys.

In blustery and challenging conditions, Rybakina found a way to get over the winning line and then admitted the problem that forced her to pull out of Indian Wells is still giving her discomfort.

“I had eight days without anything, no fitness and no tennis,” she told the Tennis Channel.

“It’s tough to come back. I am still in pain after all these matches, but I am feeling better.

“Hopefully extra day we have in between matches helps and we will see how it feels for the next one.”

Rybankina has not confirmed what her injury problem is, but she appears to be finding good form despite her ongoing issues and she was impressive against Keys.

“With Madison it’s always difficult matches and she’s an aggressive player so I knew that I needed to be ready for every point and especially on the return,” stated last year’s Miami Open runner-up Rybakina.

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“I think was the best match I played. The first two rounds was really tough in three sets, so I’m really happy I won in two sets and I’m getting back to form.

“It is a bit tricky here with the weather and humidity. Also my first two matches were at night so it was difficult to play in the day, but I played aggressively and moved well.

“I honestly didn’t know who I play next but it’s a tough opponent again. I’m gonna try to do my best to prepare as much as I can. I’ll try to be fresh physically. I think it’s gonna be a tough one but hopefully it goes my way.”

Rybakina is the firm favourite to make the final in the bottom half of the draw in Miami, with No 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka and a host of big-name seeds falling by the wayside in the opening rounds of the tournament.

A resurgent Victoria Azarenka is a possible semi-final opponent for Rybakina after she overcame Great Britain’s Katie Boulter to seal her place in the last eight in Miami.

Three-time Miami Open champion and former world No 1 Azarenka was in impressive form as she closed out a 7-5 6-1 win to move into the last eight and secure a return to the top 30 of the WTA rankings.

Boulter had broken new ground with victory over Beatriz Haddad Maia in the previous round to reach the last-16 of the tournament for the first time, but saw her journey in Florida end after she was ground down by her veteran opponent.

A marathon first set went the way of former world number one Azarenka and it proved pivotal with Boulter unable to keep up her level in set two before she lost 7-5 6-1.

Two-time Australian Open champion Azarenka looked on course to cruise past the recent San Diego Open winner when she established a 5-2 lead in the first set.

World number 30 Boulter had already faced a string of break points by this point, but had to save a number of set points in what proved a decisive eighth game.

It spurred Boulter on and she broke back against the Belarusian before she held again to level at 5-5.

However, with a tie-breaker on the horizon, Azarenka showed her experience to claim another break against the Briton before she closed out a 71-minute first set.

The momentum had firmly swung now and Azarenka went on to break Boulter at the start of the second.

Another break followed before another poor service return by Boulter sealed Azarenka’s passage into the last eight where she will face Yulia Putintseva.

Boulter will rue this missed opportunity as she could be pushed for a break into the top 20 with a deep run in Miami, but she will now turn her attention to Great Britain’s Billie Jean King Cup tie in France next month.