Elena Rybakina opens up on issue that is still causing her pain

After skipping Indian Wells, Rybakina returned to action in Miami but it is still far from perfect.

by Dzevad Mesic
Elena Rybakina opens up on issue that is still causing her pain
© Getty Images Sport - Christopher Pike

Elena Rybakina may have returned to action in Miami but she is still in pain as the 24-year-old Kazakh reveals she is still feeling pain. 

Rybakina, ranked at No. 4 in the world, suffered a big setback earlier this month when she was forced to skip Indian Wells due to a gastrointestinal illness. 12 months earlier, Rybakina won her first WTA 1000 title in Indian Wells and she was supposed to return to the desert as the defending champion this year. Unfortunately, it didn't help. 

But Rybakina was at least able to compete in Miami, where she has been through to the quarterfinal. After beating Clara Tauson and Taylor Townsend, Rybakina also defeated former world No. 7 Madison Keys on Monday 6-3 7-5 to reach the Miami quarterfinal. 

After the match, the 24-year-old Kazakh shared that she had everything but a perfect preparation for Miami. 

“I had eight days without anything, no fitness and no tennis,” Rybakina said on Tennis Channel. 

“It’s tough to come back. I am still in pain after all these matches, but I am feeling better.

“Hopefully extra day we have in between matches helps and we will see how it feels for the next one.”

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina© Getty Images Sport - Al Bello

Rybakina rates her performance against Keys 

Going into the match against Keys, Rybakina expected to have a tough job against the 17th-seeded American. 

Right from the start, Rybakina came out firing but she failed to convert any of her three consecutive break point chances in the second game. In the fifth game, the fourth-seeded Kazakh earned another break point but again failed to realize it. 

However, Rybakina remained unfazed and kept pressing Keys and the reward for that came in the eighth game when she realized her fourth break point to go 5-3 up. In the ninth game, Rybakina sealed the first set on her serve after converting her second set point.

The start of the second set didn't bring any different as Rybakina kept pressing Keys. In the first game of the second set, the 2022 Wimbledon champion missed out on a break point but still claimed the first break of the set shortly after in the third game. 

At that moment, Rybakina was fully controlling the match but then suffered a slight collapse in her game and Keys managed to earn her first break of the match and get the break back in the sixth game to tie the second set to three games apiece. But it didn't lead to a comeback or anything like that as Rybakina broke Keys again in the 11th game before putting a curtain on the match in the 11th game. 

“I think was the best match I played. The first two rounds was really tough in three sets, so I’m really happy I won in two sets and I’m getting back to form," Rybakina said.

“It is a bit tricky here with the weather and humidity. Also my first two matches were at night so it was difficult to play in the day, but I played aggressively and moved well."

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina© Getty Images Sport - Al Bello

Rybakina on playing next against Maria Sakkari

For a place in the Miami semifinal, Rybakina will be battling against world No. 9 Maria Sakkari. When the 24-year-old Kazakh and 28-year-old Sakkari meet, it is going to be their fourth meeting. 

Four years ago, Rybakina came back from a set down to beat Sakkari 3-6 7-5 6-1 in their first meeting at the St. Petersburg Open. Two years later, Sakkari got her revenge over Rybakina when she beat the Kazakh 7-5 6-4 en route to making the Indian Wells final. In late 2023, Rybakina and Sakkari played their third match as the Kazakh won a tight WTA Finals group stage match 6-0 6-7 (4) 7-6 (2).

When told by Tennis Channel that Sakkari would be her next opponent, Rybakina showed her respect for the 28-year-old Greek.

“I honestly didn’t know who I play next but it’s a tough opponent again. I’m gonna try to do my best to prepare as much as I can. I’ll try to be fresh physically. I think it’s gonna be a tough one but hopefully it goes my way," Rybakina said.

Elena Rybakina and Maria Sakkari
Elena Rybakina and Maria Sakkari© Getty Images Sport - Sarah Stier

On Monday, Sakkari was scheduled to take on Anna Kalinskaya in the Miami round-of-16 but she never took to the court after the Russian was forced to give a walkover due to feeling unwell.

When Rybakina takes to the court on Tuesday, she will be playing for the third consecutive day. On the other side, Sakkari will be coming off a day off. 

It remains to be seen how will Rybakina feel against Sakkari and if the Greek having a day off on Monday will have any impact on the match.

Elena Rybakina Indian Wells