Elena Rybakina wrote her name in tennis history when she clinched the women's singles title at the 2022 Wimbledon Championships. Despite not being a pre-tournament favorite, she looked at her best over two weeks at SW19 as took home the title and became the first Khazak Grand Slam champion.
However, that victory, and the entire tournament, was overshadowed by the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club's decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players from taking part in the event, a decision that led to the ATP and WTA stripping the Major of its ranking points.
This meant Rybakina, despite her win, was denied 2000 ranking points and a climb in the WTA rankings, which would have had her seeded better at subsequent tournaments — including the 2023 Australian Open.
When asked at a press conference in Melbourne if she was bothered by not being ranked higher than she is, Rybakina said her focus was elsewhere.
"It doesn't bother me because it's been already six months after Wimbledon, and the year just started. It's long. It's a lot of tournaments in front. And for me the goal is, of course, to improve, but also to stay healthy because it's not easy to perform every week and feel fresh and don't be injured. So I think that's the most important thing," she said.
While the World No. 25 did agree that not being awarded ranking points was a motivating factor, she stated that she would compete at the same level at every tournament irrespective of the presence or absence of ranking points.
"For sure it's a motivation, but as I said before, every tournament I come I want to win and no matter points, no points. I love to compete, and no matter where I play. So for now I would say that I don't really look at these things," Elena Rybakina expressed.
Elena Rybakina stuns Iga Swiatek, sets up quarterfinal clash with Jelena Ostapenko at Australian Open 2023
In a clash of reigning Grand Slam champions at the 2023 Australian Open on Sunday (January 22), Elena Rybakina stunned Iga Swiatek in the fourth round. The 22nd seed defeated the World No. 1 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and a half to progress to her maiden quarterfinal in Melbourne.
In what was the first meeting between reigning Major winners since Ashleigh Barty defeated Barbora Krejcikova in the 2021 Cincinnati Open quarterfinals, Rybakina started strong by attacking Swiatek's second serve.
She won 79 percent of her first serve points in the first set, compared to Swiatek’s 63 percent. In the second set, the Kazakh hit 11 winners to nine unforced errors, while Swiatek registered six winners to eight unforced errors.
In the last eight, another Grand Slam winner and first-time Australian Open quarterfinalist Jelena Ostapenko, who beat Coco Gauff in the fourth round, awaits Rybakina.