Should Elena Rybakina’s Russian Roots Overshadow Her Wimbledon Win? - UBITENNIS
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Should Elena Rybakina’s Russian Roots Overshadow Her Wimbledon Win?

Her parents still live in Russia and for the first 18 years of her life, she played for that country.

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Image via twitter.com/wimbledon

Winning your first Grand Slam title should always be a day of celebration for a player but some have branded Elena Rybakina’s triumph at Wimbledon as a farce. 

The 23-year-old valiantly battled back from a set down to defeat Ons Jabeur in the final at SW19 to become the youngest female champion since 2011. Rybakina’s breakthrough on the grass is unprecedented. Until this tournament, she had only ever beaten one top 20 player on the surface and reached the quarter-final once at a major in 11 attempts. 

Whilst Rybakina’s triumph is being praised by many, there is also criticism from some. As for the reason why it is due to her nationality. She was born in Russia and lived in the country for 18 years until switching allegiance to Kazakhstan after the Russian Tennis Federation decided to no longer support her.

Russian and Belarussian players are banned from Wimbledon this year in response to the war in Ukraine. The decision was met with outrage from within the tennis community and resulted in the removal of ranking points from this year’s tournament. 

“I’ve been playing for Kazakhstan for a very, very long time. I represent them in the biggest tournaments, the Olympics, which was a dream come true,” she replied when asked if Russia could use her win as propaganda.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I mean, it’s always some news, but I cannot do anything about this.”

To criticize Rybakina in relation to the ban is unfair and also illogical. She switched nationality nearly four years before February 24th, 2022, the date when Russia started its military campaign against Ukraine. If she had changed her nationality after that date, perhaps it would have been a very different debate. Furthermore, the suggestion that somebody with Russian roots winning Wimbledon is a farce is a bit misguided. If you take a closer look Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov all have a bit of Russian blood in them.  

However, Rybakina was caught off guard during her press conference when asked if she condemned the war in Ukraine. After answering roughly 15 questions from journalists about a variety of topics, she didn’t say she had any issues with the English language until she was asked about the war which she ended up not giving a direct response about.

“My English is not the greatest. I didn’t understand the second part of the question. From my side I can only say that I’m representing Kazakhstan,” she said. “I didn’t choose where I was born. People believed in me. Kazakhstan supported me so much. Even today I heard so much support. I saw the flags. So I don’t know how to answer these questions.”

The exact question asked was ‘Wimbledon banned Russian players this year partly because of the worry about propaganda from Vladimir Putin. Obviously, you’re from Kazakhstan, but you were born there and grew up in Russia. Do you condemn the war and Putin’s actions?

One reason why the tennis player sidestepped the question is due to her family living in Russia where it is possible for people to be punished for speaking out against the war. Earlier this week a Moscow district council member, Alexei Gorinov, was sentenced to seven years in prison for making anti-war comments in what is thought to be the harshest penalty issued yet by authorities.

After Rybakina’s win, there was a swift reaction from the country of her birth. Speaking to Sport Express, Deputy of the Russian State Duma, Svetlana Zhurova, took a jibe at the Wimbledon ban. Zhurova, who is a former Olympic champion in speed skating, is one of the many officials to have been sanctioned by the west. 

“In such a situation, thank God that they didn’t ban everyone who has Russian roots or something to do with Russia,” she commented. “We are always very rooting for everyone who was once in the USSR. When for some reason we don’t perform, we start rooting for Kazakhstan, Belarus and others. We have a connection. Elena’s victory once again proves the level of our tennis school.”

Shamil Tarpischev, who is the president of the Russian Tennis Federation, indicated that the reason why Rybakina stopped playing for his country was linked to financial reasons. But now she is a Grand Slam champion, is he tempted to entice her back?

“She moved to Kazakhstan because they offered better conditions there than we could give. Unfortunately, the question was, it seems to me, more financial,” he said.
“Will we try to return (get Rybakina to switch back)? We are not people who lure players away.”

Meanwhile, Elena Vesnina is quoted by Championat news as describing Rybakina’s win as also a victory for her homeland.

“I am very happy for Rybakina! Congratulations to Lena, her team and parents on the victory. Of course, Rybakina and Jabeur both deserved to win the trophy, they went a great way to the final. For us, her victory is something incredible!” She said. 

According to Russian media, Rybakina is the first Moscow-born player to have won the Wimbledon singles title. 

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(VIDEO) What A Weekend For Italian Tennis!

Ubitennis founder Ubaldo Scanagatta looks back on this week’s action on the ATP Tour.

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Jannik Sinner – ATP Halle 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

It has been a memorable Sunday for Italian tennis with the country winning two titles on the ATP Tour. 

In Halle, world No.1 Jannik Sinner claimed his first trophy on the grass with a hard-fought two-set win over Hubert Hurkacz. There was also success in the doubles tournament with top seeds Simone Bolelli and Andrea Vavassori winning the title. Meanwhile, in London, Lorenzo Musetti was unable to make it a hatrick of wins for his country after losing in the final of the Cinch Championships to Tommy Paul.  

So how much can be read into these wins and should we be expecting similar results at Wimbledon which begins a week tomorrow? 

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Jannik Sinner reaches the first grass final of his career in Halle

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Jannik Sinner overcame Zhang Zhizhen 6-4 7-6 (7-3) to reach the first final of his career on grass at the Terra Wortmann in Halle. Sinner achieved his best result on this surface when he reached the semifinal at Wimbledon in 2023. 

Sinner will face a final against his friend Hubert Hurkacz, who beat Alexander Zverev 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 in the first semifinal. The Italian player converted his only break point in the ninth game and fended off the only break point he faced at 5-6 in the second set with a forehand winner, one of his winners of the match. 

The Italian player earned an early mini-break to take a 2-0 lead. Zhang Zhizhen pulled the mini-break back. Sinner earned two mini-breaks in the fourth and eighth points to win the tie-break 7-3. Sinner won the first of the four tie-breaks he played this week.

Sinner finished the match in straight sets after clinching three consecutive three-set wins at the start of his campaign at this year’s edition of the Terra Wortmann in Halle. 

The world number 1 player won three titles on hard court at the Australian Open, Rotterdam and Miami this year. 

“It means a lot. I had four tough matches to go to the final. It was a good match today. Definitely more rallies than yesterday. And that’s definitely what I needed today. I am happy and let’s see what’s coming tomorrow”, said Sinner.  

Earlier this week Zhang Zhizhen had previously beaten Danil Medvedev in the second round and came back from 2-5 down to beat Christopher Eubanks in the quarter finals. 

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Hubert Hurkacz beats Alexander Zverev to reach the second final of his career in Halle

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Hubert Hurkacz moved past this year’s Roland Garros finalist Alexander Zverev 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 in 1 hour and 33 minutes to reach the second final of his career at the Terra Wortmann in Halle. Hurkacz will be aiming to win the second title of his career at this tournament two years after his triumph. 

Hurkacz fired 17 aces and saved all four break points he faced in the first game of the opening set to clinch his fifth top 10 win on grass. The Pole won 81% of his first serve points. 

The first set went on serve en route to the tie-break. Hurkacz earned two mini-breaks to win the tie-break 7-2. Hurkacz his only break in the third game of the second set to win the second set 6-4. 

“I really love grass. The game suits my game and the atmosphere here, having the full crowd is incredible. It brings so much joy to the players”, said Hurkacz. 

Hurkacz improved to 1-3 in his head-to-head matches against Zverev. The Polish player will aim to clinch the ninth ATP Tour title of his career in his 11th ATP Tour final. 

Hurkacz won the Halle tournament in 2022 and reached the semifinal at Wimbledon in 2021. 

Zverev holds a record of 37 wins to 11 defeats this season. 

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