Elena Andreyevna Rybakina (Russian: Елена Андреевна Рыбакина, [ɪ̯ɪˈlʲenə rɨˈbakʲɪnə], born 17 June 1999) is a Russian-born Kazakhstani professional tennis player. She has a career-high ranking of No. 17 by the Women's Tennis Association (WTA). Rybakina has reached seven finals on the WTA Tour, winning two titles, including one at the Premier level.
Rybakina had a career-high junior ranking of No. 3, only beginning to have significant results relatively late in her junior career at the age of 17. She reached two junior Grand Slam semifinals, and won a Grade A title at the Trofeo Bonfiglio in 2017. Rybakina switched federations from Russia to Kazakhstan in June 2018, having just entered the top 200 for the first time a month earlier. Prior to the switch, she did not have an individual coach as a junior, and did not hire a traveling coach until early 2019. Her first consistent success on the WTA Tour came in the mid-2019 and was highlighted by her first WTA title at the Bucharest Open as well as her top 100 debut. Rybakina made her breakthrough in the 2020 season, during which she has led the tour with five finals, including four in her first five events of the year.
With her tall stature at 1.84 metres (6 ft 0 in), Rybakina has an excellent serve and can generate effortless power with both her forehand and backhand. She plays primarily from the baseline and has good movement for her height.
Early life and background
Elena Rybakina was born on 17 June 1999 in Moscow. She started engaging in sports with her older sister from a very young age, originally focusing on gymnastics and ice skating. Upon being told that she was too tall to become a professional in either of those sports, her father suggested she switch to tennis instead because of his interest in the sport. Rybakina began playing tennis at the age of six.
Rybakina had moved from the Dynamo Sports Club to the Spartak Tennis Club, where she had several accomplished coaches. She trained with former top-10 player Andrey Chesnokov and former top-100 player Evgenia Kulikovskaya. One of her fitness coaches was Irina Kiseleva, a World Championship gold medalist in the modern pentathlon. Elena did not have individual training until when she was a junior, instead practicing in a group of about eight players up until age 15 and a group of four players through age 18. She also only played tennis about two hours per day and trained in fitness for three hours a day. Her time for tennis was limited in part because she attended a regular high school not specialized for athletes and needed to balance tennis with schoolwork.
Rybakina is a former world No. 3 junior. She began playing on the ITF Junior Circuit in November 2013 at the age of 14. The following March, she won her first title at her second career event, the Grade-3 Almetievsk Cup. She played her first Grade-2 event in June at the Ozerov Cup in Moscow, finishing runner-up to compatriot Anna Blinkova. She began playing Grade-1 events from the start of 2015, but did not have any success until she reached the final at the Belgian International Junior Championships in May, losing to Katharina Hobgarski. Rybakina made her junior-Grand Slam debut later in the year at the US Open, where she reached the third round. Following an opening-round loss at the 2016 Australian Open, she won back-to-back Grade-1 titles. She continued to struggle at the junior Grand Slam and other Grade-A events in singles for the rest of the year. Her best result of 2016 at the Grade A-events came in doubles when she finished runner-up to Olesya Pervushina and Anastasia Potapova at the Trofeo Bonfiglio, alongside Amina Anshba in an all-Russian final.
The 2017 season was Rybakina's last year on the junior tour. In the middle of the season, she won her first and only Grade-A title at the Trofeo Bonfiglio, defeating Iga Świątek in the final. She also fared better at the Grand Slam events compared to previous years, losing in the semifinals of the Australian Open and the French Open to eventual champions Marta Kostyuk and Whitney Osuigwe, respectively. She finished her junior career at the first round-robin edition of the ITF Junior Masters, the junior counterpart to the WTA Finals. She won one match in her round-robin group and finished in seventh place.
2014–18: Maiden ITF titles, federation switch
Rybakina began playing on the ITF Women's Circuit in December 2014, at the age of 15. While she was still playing on the junior tour, she reached three ITF finals in singles and two in doubles, only winning both of the doubles finals in 2017. She also made her WTA Tour debut in October 2017 at the Kremlin Cup, where she reached the main draw through qualifying but lost in the opening round to Irina-Camelia Begu. At her next WTA tournament in February 2018, Rybakina won her first WTA Tour match at the St. Petersburg Trophy against Timea Bacsinszky. She then upset world No. 7, Caroline Garcia, in three sets, after saving a match point in the second set. Despite losing in the next round, this quarterfinal appearance helped her rise from No. 450 to No. 268 in the world. In March, Rybakina won her first ITF singles title at a $15K event in Kazan, where she also won the doubles title. Her next significant rankings jump came in April when she finished runner-up to Sabina Sharipova at the $60K Lale Cup in Istanbul, bringing her to No. 215. She broke into the top 200 for the first time in late May. The following month, Rybakina acquired Kazakh citizenship and switched federations from Russia to Kazakhstan, having just turned 19 years old at the time. The Kazakhstan Tennis Federation had offered her financial support to change her nationality, which she chose over various options to play college tennis in the United States. Playing for Kazakhstan, Rybakina entered her first Grand Slam qualifying draw at the US Open, but did not reach the main draw.
2019: Maiden WTA title, top 50 debut
After playing mostly ITF events in the first half of 2019, Rybakina began playing primarily on the WTA Tour in the second half of the season. During the first few months of the year, she won three ITF titles, including the $60K Launceston International. She made her Grand Slam debut at the French Open as a qualifier, losing to Kateřina Siniaková. In her first WTA event on grass, Rybakina made her first semifinal at the Rosmalen Grass Court Championships. Despite this success, she lost in qualifying at Wimbledon. Rybakina's breakthrough came in July when she won her maiden WTA Tour title at the Bucharest Open, a month after turning 20 years old. During the event, she upset second seed Viktória Kužmová before defeating Patricia Maria Țig in the final. With this title, she made her top 100 debut in the WTA rankings at No. 65 in the world.
Rybakina qualified for her second Grand Slam main draw of the year at the US Open, but again lost in the first round. At her next tournament, she made her second WTA final of the year at the Jiangxi International Open, finishing runner-up to Rebecca Peterson. This result brought her into the top 50 for the first time. Rybakina closed out the year strong, reaching at least the quarterfinals at her last three events of the season. In particular, she reached the quarterfinals at the Wuhan Open, her first career Premier-5 event. In the tournament, she defeated world No. 6, Simona Halep, who retired late in the first set with a lower back injury. She lost in the next round to eventual champion and world No. 14, Aryna Sabalenka. Rybakina finished the season at No. 37 in the world.
2020: Tour-best five finals, top 20 debut
Rybakina led the WTA Tour in finals during the 2020 season, and finished tied for second in match wins. She reached the finals at four of her first five events. Before the COVID-19 pandemic led to the shutdown of the WTA Tour for more than five months, she only failed to reach the final at the Australian Open and the Qatar Open, losing to world No. 1, Ashleigh Barty, in both instances, the latter of which in a walkover due to an abductor strain in her leg. Prior to the Australian Open, her two finals came at International events. After losing her first final of the year to Ekaterina Alexandrova at the Shenzhen Open, she defeated Zhang Shuai to win her second WTA title at the Hobart International. At the Australian Open, she recorded her first two Grand Slam main-draw match wins against Bernarda Pera and Greet Minnen. Following the tournament, she reached two Premier finals at the St. Petersburg Trophy and the Dubai Championships, finishing runner-up to No. 8 Kiki Bertens and No. 2 Simona Halep, respectively. At Dubai in particular, Rybakina defeated two top-ten players in No. 7 Sofia Kenin and No. 3 Karolína Plíšková, the latter of which was the highest ranked player she had defeated to date. These four finals helped her climb to No. 17 in the world at the time of the tour shutdown. She also became the first Kazakhstani player in the top 20.
During the bulk of the shutdown, Rybakina stayed in Moscow and did not have the opportunity to practice for two and a half months. She eventually resumed training in Bratislava in Slovakia for five weeks. When the tour resumed in New York in August, she lost her return match to Alexandrova and then only recorded one match win at the US Open. Back in Europe, she finally defeated Alexandrova at the Italian Open in her third opportunity of the year before squandering a chance to serve out the match in a third-round loss to Yulia Putintseva. At the Internationaux de Strasbourg, Rybakina reached her fifth final of the year and first since the resumption of the tour, losing in the final to No. 5, Elina Svitolina. She did not carry this success to the next major, losing to Fiona Ferro in the second round at the French Open.
Rybakina is an aggressive baseliner who aims to finish points quickly, and whose high risk game style leads to an accumulation of both winners and unforced errors. She can generate effortless power, both on groundstrokes and her serve. Her forehand and backhand are both hit flat, with relentless depth and speed, allowing her to generate excellent power with both her groundstrokes, and she can hit winners with both shots. Her powerful serve, which is capable of reaching 119 mph (192 km/h), allows her to serve a large number of aces, and she led the tour in the ace count in 2020, serving 192 aces throughout the year. Due to her doubles experience, Rybakina aims to finish points at the net, and is a capable volleyer. She also has good movement given her height, although this area is one of the few weak areas in her game. Adriano Albanesi, a WTA coach, described her as "a right-handed [Petra] Kvitová". Rybakina plays with a very calm demeanor, and believes she can defeat any opponent. Early in her WTA career, she has excelled at three-set matches, winning 13 out of 14 from September 2019 through February 2020.
Rybakina hired Andrei Chesnokov, whom she had already trained with at Spartak Tennis Club, to be her private coach in 2018 at the age of 18. This was the first time she had an individual coach. Chesnokov only coached in Moscow and did not travel with her to tournaments. Rybakina switched coaches to Stefano Vukov in February 2019. Vukov is a former Croatian tennis player who briefly competed mainly on the ITF Futures tour. With Vukov as her first traveling coach, Rybakina rapidly improved, rising from just inside the top 200 of the WTA rankings into the top 30 in about a year.
Rybakina has been sponsored by Adidas for clothing and shoes since the start of 2020. She had previously been endorsed by Nike. She uses a Yonex VCore 100 racket.
Grand Slam tournament performance timelines
|Australian Open||A||Q1||3R||2R||0 / 2||3–2||60%|
|French Open||A||1R||2R||0 / 2||1–2||33%|
|Wimbledon||A||Q3||NH||0 / 0||0–0||–|
|US Open||Q2||1R||2R||0 / 2||1–2||33%|
|Win–Loss||0–0||0–2||4–3||1–1||0 / 6||5–6||45%|
|Titles||0||1||1||0||Career total: 2|
|Finals||0||2||5||0||Career total: 7|
|Australian Open||A||2R||1R||0 / 2||1–2||33%|
|French Open||A||1R||0 / 1||0–1||0%|
|Wimbledon||A||NH||0 / 0||0–0||–|
|US Open||1R||A||0 / 1||0–1||0%|
|Win–Loss||0–1||1–2||0–1||0 / 4||1–4||20%|