Author: Carol

The Russian tennis superstar is desperate to win the Wimbledon title

The Russian tennis superstar is desperate to win the Wimbledon title

Elena Rybakina feels like she’s ‘not the Wimbledon champion,’ says life as champion ‘not the greatest’ – and she’s angry when she’s beaten

On the eve of an upset, Elena Rybakina is calm and collected. Then she storms into the hotel room, demanding to know why she wasn’t winning Wimbledon. “I didn’t want to be the Wimbledon champion,” she says. “I was the number one.” It’s a shocking, defiant outburst that feels like a victory. A month earlier, Rybakina, Russia’s tennis superstar, was the tournament’s number one seed, but after the shock withdrawal of the Russian number one, Maria Sharapova, from the tournament, and with Nadal in the semi-finals, Rybakina emerged as the only Russian seeded outside the top four. This was supposed to be a triumph: the only time that Russia had even made the quarter-finals in a major event since 1999. Instead, she had to watch from the sidelines.

Rybakina, 26, had reached the last four of the French Open only months earlier, but this time the top four were all Russian women, including the reigning world number one, Maria Sharapova. Her shock withdrawal in the semis, with Nadal, Rybakina believes, has given Russia back its crown. “The top three in Russia are all Russians,” she says. “Sharapova is a great player. Maria is in the top three. I’m in the number-two spot. When I was a junior, I was number one and I was the tennis champion. Now, I’m in the second spot of the quarter-finals. I really feel like I’m not the Wimbledon champion.”

Rybakina is one of the many Russian tennis players desperate to make something happen in a tournament where they might get a chance to reach the semi-finals. In March, Russia will again host the next three Masters events, the next two US Opens and Wimbledon. While the men do not compete in the Grand Slams, Russian tennis is so strong that it has a chance of making it to the latter. Rybakina now knows how lucky she is to be here. She just wants to play herself out, and she hopes others will do as well.

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