The Russian Tennis Federation was quick to claim Elena Rybakina as “our product” in their run for the women’s title at Wimbledon.
They went on to praise her training schedule in the country after winning the Venus Rosewater Dish as Wimbledon champions while representing Kazakhstan.
“It’s the Russian school, after all. She played here with us for a long time, then in Kazakhstan,” Russian Tennis Federation President Shamil Tarpishchev told sports website Championat on Saturday after Rybakina beat Ons Jabeur 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 on the center court.
Rybakina, 23, was born in Moscow and played in the Russian system until 2018, when financial problems led her to change nationality.
There was no official reaction from the Kremlin to Rybakina’s success at Wimbledon, but some commentators claimed his victory as a Russian achievement and a symbolic snub to the All England Club’s ban on players representing Russia and Belarus.
Players from these countries were banned from the Wimbledon tournament due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Some Russian state media have highlighted Rybakina’s roots in Moscow, with others choosing to simply call her a “representative of Kazakhstan”. The last Russian woman to win a Grand Slam singles title was Maria Sharapova at the French Open in 2014. Moscow-born Sofia Kenin, who left Russia as a baby and plays for the United States, won the Australian Open in 2020.
Kazakhstan, meanwhile, are delighted to have their first Grand Slam singles champion. “Kazakhstani tennis player Elena Rybakina has achieved a historic victory in the very prestigious Wimbledon tournament. I warmly congratulate this outstanding athlete! wrote President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Twitter.
Rybakina’s victory is the culmination of a long-term plan for tennis in Kazakhstan. The oil and gas-rich Central Asian nation has a long tradition of homegrown success in sports like boxing and cycling, but has often relied on recruiting talented tennis players from Russia. Rybakina, known for her big serve that netted 253 aces this year, made the switch at 19 when her career stalled due to financial issues. The Kazakhstan Tennis Federation stepped in with an offer – to represent them in exchange for the money needed to support a tennis player’s global lifestyle. Rybakina said this week that she felt like she lived on tour rather than in one place.
When Rybakina – nervous, barely smiling, apparently not quite sure what she had achieved – stepped into the stands of Center Court on Saturday to celebrate with her team, she kissed the first KTF President Bulat Utemuratov, then Yaroslava Shvedova, the former player who became her mentor. Shvedova, like Rybakina, was born in Moscow, switched allegiance to Kazakhstan in 2008 and won two Grand Slam doubles titles.
Rybakina’s victory also comes at a tense moment in relations between Russia and Kazakhstan.
The year began with the deployment of Russian troops to its Central Asian neighbor to quell protests that turned violent. Kazakhstan’s government welcomed the move, but was particularly reluctant to endorse Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began the following month. President Tokayev told Putin at a televised conference in St Petersburg last month that Kazakhstan would not recognize the two Russian-backed separatist governments in eastern Ukraine.
Rybakina was reserved in her comments on the invasion.
“I just want the war to end as soon as possible. Peace, yeah,” she said after her quarterfinal match.
On the banning of players representing Russia, Rybakina said: “When I heard that, it’s not something you want to hear because we play sports. Everybody wants to compete. They don’t did not choose their place of birth.
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)