With less than two days to go before the Wimbledon women’s final against Ons Jabeur, Elena Rybakina is already dealing with fallout from her decision to play for Kazakhstan instead of her native Russia.
The Moscow-born 23-year old who moved over to a Kazakh passport in 2018 for tennis financial reasons, is under fire for the propaganda value a possible title performance could mean for Russian dictator Vlad Putin as the invasion of Ukraine continues into a fifth month.
With Wimbledon banning all Russian and Kazakh players from entry and then being stripped of ranking points in retaliation by the ATP and WTA, the scene is set for fireworks on centre Court if Rybakina beats Tunisia’s Jabeur on Saturday.
Rybakina is trying to deal with the tennis and not the politics, saying she does not feel Russian despite her birth certificate..
“I’m really happy representing Kazakhstan. They believed in me.
It’s been already a long time (since I became) a Kazak player.
“I’m enjoying my time here. I feel for the players who couldn’t come here, but I’m just enjoying playing here on the biggest stage and trying to do my best, so…”
Should Rybakina win the Wimbledon final between a pair of first-time relative unknowns. a nightmare scenario for the All England Club will erupt.
The club reportedly laid on the Russian and Belarus player ban so as not to involve British royalty in any untoward scenes should a Russian actually win the title.
Now, they have one anyway.
Rybakina said that she would be excited to meet Kate the Duchess of Cambridge who has long been slotted in to present the trophy.
“For sure it’s an honor and I’m going to be very excited for this moment no matter if I win or lose,” the Kazakh said.
“It’s something to remember, and it’s going to be amazing.”