A tennis star vowed to use her early Australian Open snub as 'motivation.' Now she's one match from her second Grand Slam in a year.
Reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina started the Australian Open on a less-than-desirable court.
The 23-year-old Kazakh promised to use the snub as "motivation to win even more."
She's now through to the tournament final with a chance to win her second Grand Slam in 6 months.
Elena Rybakina knows she has talent worth showcasing on center court.
And she believes she's done enough to prove it to the masses — or at least to those in charge of scheduling the matches.
Despite winning Wimbledon — the most prestigious title in all of tennis — in July 2022, the 23-year-old Kazakh has found herself competing on peripheral courts, rather than the massive arenas befitting a Grand Slam champion. And while she expressed frustration with her disrespectful placement at the 2022 US Open, Rybakina took an alternative approach to her perceived snub to open this year's Australian Open.
"In the end, I'm here to play tennis. I'm feeling good, so I'm super happy to get through to another match," she said in the press conference following her third-round victory. "Doesn't matter which court I'm going to play.
"I guess it's a motivation to win even more," Rybakina added with a smile. "Maybe next time they're going to put me first match somewhere else, not the Court 13. As I said, it doesn't really matter. I just want to win as much as I can."
And win she has. Ranked No. 25 by the Women's Tennis Association (WTA), Rybakina has taken down — and, technically, upset — the world's 11th, first, 17th, and 24th-ranked players in Danielle Collins, Iga Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko, and Victoria Azarenka, respectively.
Now she's headed to the Australian Open final with a chance to win her second major title in a six-month span.
Many would argue the 6-foot heavy hitter is ranked below her station, and given the fact she's dropped just a single set all tournament, it's easy to see their point. For Rybakina, the standings discrepancy traces its roots, at least in part, to the very event that put her on the map.
Tournament organizers banned Russian and Belarusian players from competing at Wimbledon last year in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The WTA and Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) stripped The Championships of its traditional rankings points as a result, leaving the singles winners of the tournament — Rybakina and, on the men's side, Novak Djokovic — without a corresponding bump in the standings.
Perhaps that's why Rybakina has been relegated to outer courts and daytime sessions instead of the playing in the big arenas under the bright lights. But if the slight is still bothering her, she sure hasn't let on.
As she told The New York Times shortly after taking down the world's top-ranked player: "It does not matter so much what court you start the tournament on as it does what court you finish the tournament on."
That'll be Rod Laver Arena, for those keeping score. Rybakina will face world No. 5 Aryna Sabalenka — a dominant force in her own right — under the bright lights Saturday at 7:30 p.m. local time (3:30 a.m. ET) for a chance to add a second trophy to the collection.
Read the original article on Insider