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Tennis

What is the relationship between Wimbledon women’s champion Elena Rybakina and Russia?

Elena Rybakina has won the 2022 edition of Wimbledon, and she has done so while being the only Russian-born player in the tournament.

Update:
Elena Rybakina has won the 2022 edition of Wimbledon, and she has done so while being the only Russian-born player in the tournament.
Clive BrunskillGetty

Once Wimbledon imposed its ban on Russian and Belarusian players from competing in the All England Club this year back in may, the thing no one would have expected is to have the Centre Court cheering for the championship of a moscovite, Elena Rybakina. The newest Wimbledon champion was born in the Russian capital in 1998, but she represents Kazakhstan when she is at a tennis court, which granted her access to the tournament.

Wimbledon ban did not affect Rybakina

The English tournament decision was based on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, and it not only meant that Grand Slam winners such as Russian Daniil Medvedev or Belarusian Victoria Azarenka would not be able to take part in the event, but that the ATP and the WTA stripped Wimbledon from the points it always grants toward both World Rankings. In this controversial scenario, it seems paradoxical that Rybakina is the one lifting the trophy after all, even if she does not have a Russian flag next to her name.

Rybakina was born in Moscow and grew up there, she represented Russia throughout her youth, and only changed to Kazakhstan colors when she was 19, due to the financials they offered her for that move. It was a change not based on national sentiment but on other factors, which makes it hard to state that Elena Rybakina really is any less Russian than any of the other banned players. Some people have tried to put this as a loss for Russia given that they lost a great tennis player from representing her country.

Rybakina, between Russia and Kazakhstan

That may be so, but most people still find it hard to believe that Rybakina, who still lives in Moscow, is not just a Russian tennis player competing with another flag next to her name. That feeling got enhanced by the words of the President of the Russian Tennis Federation, Shamil Tarpischev, who claimed Rybakina’s success as theirs: ‘It’s nice that Elena will play in the Wimbledon final, she is our product. Of course we will cheer for her.’

Rybakina has tried to stay away from the controversy, as she states that she’s very happy to be representing Kazakhstan and that she wishes for the war to end soon so there can be peace in Ukraine.

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