Elena Rybakina WTA ‘clown’ row continues with coach weighing in
Elena Rybakina has withdrawn from the Tokyo Open after claiming that the WTA were ‘changing the rules at the last moment’ and implying the organisation were ‘clowns’, and now her coach Stefan Vukov has had his say.
However, she did not receive a bye to the second round, whereas fourth and fifth seeds Maria Sakkari and Caroline Garcia did.
This was due to a performance bye rule that is used based on results from a previous week, with both players competing in Guadalajara last week.
Sakkari was the champion at the Mexican WTA 1000 event and Garcia lost at the semi-final stage, so they were awarded these byes to help them manage the quick turnaround time, as well as the long journey from Mexico to Japan.
Rybakina expressed her disapproval of this rule on Instagram, “Performance bye. Thank you for changing the rules last moment. Great decisions as always @wta,” followed by clown and circus tent emoji.
Despite the world No.5’s annoyance, it appears that performance byes have been part of the official WTA rulebook since 2009, when WTA 1000 events were first introduced.
Just two days later the 2022 Wimbledon champion announced that she would be withdrawing from the WTA 500 event in the Japanese capital, but insisted that it was not related to her gripes with the performance byes.
“As a player I want to give my all on court and at the moment my body is not ready to do that,” revealed Rybakina. That’s why I decided to listen to my body and withdraw from the tournament. I love Japan, my fans here are so unique and for that reason this is a tough decision.
She added, “The WTA topic is another topic, on which I have my opinions and will clearly voice them in future.”
Rybakina has been struggling with illness and injury in recent months, and even admitted that she was ‘feeling destroyed’ after slamming WTA scheduling at the Canadian Open last month.
Elena Rybakina and her coaches statement
Stefan Vukov has coached Elena Rybakina since 2019, mentoring her to a Grand Slam title, two WTA 1000 titles and a career-high ranking of No.3 in the world.
And he has also expressed his frustration at the ‘lack of communication’ surrounding performance byes, “Just to make things clear, there is no explanation of what a performance bye is. What does this mean? Do we add byes to help performing players? Or do we take away ranking earned byes? And isn’t ranking itself a sign of performance? Last year we came from a final in Europe and played in Japan two days later and performance byes nowhere to be found.
Vukov continued, “The issue is always the same lack of communication. This will also apply from Tokyo 500 to Beijing 1000 next week. Four performance byes will be awarded.
“We need transparency. All players need to understand what is going on. Stop blaming players for mistakes made by the system itself.”
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