Maria Sakkari and Caroline Garcia refute Elena Rybakina's claims amid Tokyo draw controversy: "We knew in advance there would be a performance bye"

Maria Sakkari and Caroline Garcia refute Elena Rybakina
Maria Sakkari and Caroline Garcia refute Elena Rybakina's claims

Maria Sakkari and Caroline Garcia have refuted Elena Rybakina's complaints regarding the introduction of performance byes at the 2023 Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo, Japan.

At the WTA 500 event in Tokyo, top seed Iga Swiatek and Jessica Pegula received their customary first-round byes. Additionally, with the implementation of performance byes, fourth seed Sakkari and fifth seed Garcia secured direct entry into the second round based on their performance at the Guadalajara Open.

Sakkari downed Garcia in the semifinals of the Guadalajara Open before clinching her maiden WTA 1000 title by defeating Caroline Dolehide 7-5, 6-3 in the final.

Consequently, Elena Rybakina, who was seeded third, lost her customary first-round bye. She withdrew from the tournament prior to her clash against Linda Noskova in the opening round.

Prior to her withdrawal, the Kazakh took to social media and called out the WTA over the decision to award performance byes, particularly taking issue with the last-minute nature of the decision.

"Performance bye. Thank you for changing the rules last moment. Great decisions as always @wta," Rybakina posted on her Instagram story.

However, Maria Sakkari countered Rybakina's claims, asserting that awarding performance byes was not a recent rule change and that players were informed of the decision five months in advance.

"This is not a new rule, I think it has been in place for about 14 years, and that's actually the case. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this rule was temporarily removed. However, in the past, this performance bye was also used in Beijing," Maria Sakkari said during a press conference. (via Tennis365)
"We have already been aware of the fact that there will be a performance bye since the tournament will be held from Mexico to Tokyo for about 5 months. I was informed that performance byes are also applied when traveling from Tokyo to Beijing," she added.

Caroline Garcia supported Sakkari's comments, confirming that the decision regarding performance byes had been communicated to the players beforehand.

"It's a really long journey from Mexico to Japan, and considering the time difference, you'll lose two days. I think this rule is necessary because we have to continue playing under such circumstances. In the past, it was also adopted in Beijing and Wuhan," Garcia said.
We knew in advance that there would be a performance bye at this tournament. We were informed of this, and I think this is important in order to maintain our rhythm," she added.

Tokyo Open 2R: Maria Sakkari to lock horns with Misaki Doi; Caroline Garcia faces Anhelina Kalinina

Maria Sakkari
Maria Sakkari

Following a bye in the first round, Maria Sakkari will kick off her campaign in Tokyo against home favorite Misaki Doi. Doi defeated Petra Martic 7-5, 6-2 to book her spot against the Greek.

Caroline Garcia, meanwhile, will lock horns with Ukraine's Anhelina Kalinina. Kalinina secured a 6-3, 6-1 victory over American Ashlyn Krueger to advance to the Round of 16.

Should Maria Sakkari and Garcia both emerge victorious in their respective matches, they will set up a blockbuster quarterfinal clash at the WTA 500 event.

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Edited by Urvi Mehra
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