"Stop blaming players for mistakes by the system itself" - Elena Rybakina's coach Stefano Vukov slams WTA after Kazakh's withdrawal in Tokyo

Elena Rybakina and Stefano Vukov
Elena Rybakina and Stefano Vukov

Elena Rybakina's coach, Stefano Vukov, has called out the WTA over its decision to award performance byes at the Tokyo Open after the Kazakh's withdrawal from the WTA 500 event.

Vukov took to social media to express his frustration after four performance byes for the Tokyo Open were awarded to No. 1 seed Iga Swiatek, No. 2 seed Jessica Pegula, as well as No. 4 and 5 seeds Caroline Garcia and Maria Sakkari, but not to Elena Rybkaina, who was No. 3 seed.

This is because Garcia and Sakkari played the semifinal in the WTA 1000 Guadalajara Open last week and needed sufficient time to travel and recover.

In a story on Instagram, the Croatian coach stated that he was puzzled by the concept of performance bye and questioned why ranking was not a sufficient reason to award a player a bye in tournaments.

"Just to make things clear, there is no explanation of what a performance bye is. What does 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?" Vukov wrote.

The 36-year-old recalled an incident from last year when Elena Rybakina played the final of the Portoroz Open in Slovenia on September 18 and had to play the first round at the Tokyo Open on September 21.

He highlighted the lack of communication as the major issue that leads to controversies like this.

"Last year we came from a final in Europe and played in Japan 2 days later and performance byes were nowhere to be found. The issue is always the same of communication. This will also apply from Tokyo 500 to Beijing 1000 next week. 4 performance byes will be awarded," he said.

Vukov argued that most top players have little to no incentive to play tournaments right now as they have already qualified for the WTA Finals in Cancun.

He believes that the threat of fines at mandatory events forces players to compete. Vukov called for more transparency from the WTA on things that affect scheduling and asked more players to speak out against injustices like these.

"Most players have already qualified for the final 8, so far what reason should they even compete before Cancun. The reason is that most tournaments are mandatory, and fines are given out to players if you don't compete in them. Players always pay the consequences. The system doesn't work," Vukov continued.
"The marketing is terrible as you can all see Elena qualified weeks ago, and just yesterday @wta decided to post something. We need transparency. All players need to understand what is going on. Stop blaming players for mistakes by the system itself. @ptpaplayers," he concluded.
Screengrab from Instagram
Screengrab from Instagram

Elena Rybakina withdraws from Tokyo Open to 'prioritise' health and fitness

Elena Rybakina pictured at US Open 2023
Elena Rybakina pictured at US Open 2023

Elena Rybakina announced that she would not be competing at the Tokyo Open to focus more on her fitness and health.

The World No. 5 was looking forward to playing in Japan for a second year in a row after being defeated in the first round last year.

"I'm really sorry to have to withdraw from Tokyo this year. I was really looking forward to playing the event and I love the city. I have to prioritise my health and fitness and need time to get to 100 per cent health," the former Wimbledon champion wrote.

The timing of Elena Rybakina's withdrawal is suspicious, as a few days ago, she slammed the organizers for not giving her a first-round bye due to the 'performance bye' policy.

The 24-year-old was set to play Linda Noskova in the first round. She was replaced by local player Himeno Sakatsume.

"Performance bye, thank you for changing the rules last moment. Great decisions as always WTA," Elena Rybakina said.