A Behind-the-Scenes on Wimbledon Winner Elena Rybakina
By: Summer Chu
The Russian-born Kazakhstani tennis champ Elena Rybakina won a Wimbledon title just this past week. A fierce player with her intimidating 6-foot-tall stature, she knocked out her competitors one by one. Elena Rybakina beat Chinese teenager Zheng Qinwen, former Grand Slam champions like Bianca Andreescu and Simona Halep, and in Saturday's final, the No. 2 player in the world, Ons Jabeur.
Despite her intensity on the court, off the court, off the court, Rybakina is known for her colorful Adidas outfits and adorable animal Instagram snaps. She always posts about animals on Instagram, sometimes her own pets or other animals, including a kangaroo in Australia. "I love animals," Rybakina said in a WTA interview. "I have a dog, a beagle named Mulia."
Besides being a world-famous tennis player, Rybakina has a very normal life. She does things typical 20-year-olds do, like hanging out with her friends and eating ice cream or baking with her sister. Tennis didn’t dominate her childhood, she even played other sports as well. In her younger years, she was very good at gymnastics and ice skating, but she had to quit. "Because of my height, they said that I cannot be a professional [in either gymnastics or ice skating]," she told WTA.
When Rybanika graduated high school, she had the difficult decision of whether to become a pro tennis player or start college. "My dad wanted me to go to college because he was worried. He saw the results [of her tennis], but it was difficult for us financially," she explained on WTA. Along with being a great athlete, Rybanika also was an incredible student with offers from around 15 colleges. However, she wanted to go into professional tennis, and after some convincing, her dad relented.
When the Kazakstan Federation of Tennis offered to take her onto their team, Rybanika joined while she is Kazakhstani by blood, she was born and raised in Russia, so she had to switch her Russian citizenship to Kazakhstani citizenship. "I was not so good when they [the Kazakhstan Federation] offered. So, they believed in me, and they're helping me a lot," she said.
After playing for Kazakstan at Wimbledon, she was asked if her native country of Russia might try to politicize her victory as she was born and raised in the nation. "I don't know," she said. "I'm playing for Kazakhstan for a very, very long time. I represent it in the biggest tournaments, the Olympics, which was a dream come true.”