Elena Rybakina criticizes schedule, uses Ashleigh Barty example as warning to WTA

Rybakina speaks out against the new two-week format in Rome and Madrid and having more mandatory tournaments.

by Dzevad Mesic
Elena Rybakina criticizes schedule, uses Ashleigh Barty example as warning to WTA
© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Elena Rybakina, 24, suggests Madrid and Rome being two-week tournaments just before the French Open makes no sense at all as the 2022 Wimbledon champion has once again spoken out against the scheduling and calendar and warned the WTA that more players could be ending their careers early like Ashleigh Barty if this trend continues. 

Starting this year, both WTA 1000 clay tournaments - Madrid and Rome - are two-week long events and scheduled to take place between April 23 - May 19th. 

Rybakina, who delivered some harsh criticism on the WTA and their scheduling last year, thinks all of this is not benefiting players at all as playing two two-week tournaments leading up to a Grand Slam can compromise players' health, rest and recovery plans. Also, Rybakina highlighted that having more mandatory tournaments and basically being forced to play when not feeling so is not helping either. 

In Madrid, Rybakina had a first-round bye and she played her opening match only on April 26nd. Since then, Rybakina has won four more matches and she has been through to the semifinal, where she faces Aryna Sabalenka tonight. 

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Against Yulia Putintseva on Wednesday, No. 4 seed Rybakina didn't look like her usual self but still managed to save two match points and avoid a shock loss. After the match, Following her win, Rybakina had something she wanted to say as she described Madrid as "a very long tournament" and lamented that another "long mandatory tournament" is also coming.

Rybakina calls out the WTA: We are going in the opposite direction

After grieving her annoyance with Madrid and Rome being two-week events that players cannot skip even if they wanted, Rybakina was asked to explain her perspective.

“I think like it was before if we have two weeks' tournament, Indian Wells, Miami, it's fine, but to make these tournaments like Madrid and Rome also long, and then you have French Open, it's kind of big events," Rybakina said.

"With the new rule of change, we have a lot of mandatory stuff where you cannot really choose and pick what you want to play, because, I mean, at some point it's fair enough that people choose what they want to play or not, because if the tour is good for everyone, then people will want to play. 

"But now we’re kind of in an opposite direction where we have to, because everyone is chasing ranking and everyone is chasing some points and so on. But if it would be open for everyone, then it's kind of fair enough. You want to play, you play. If you don't want to play, you don't play."

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Concluding her answer, Rybakina acknowledged that she raised some concerns in the past but no one listened to her.

"So I think there is a lot to improve in the tour, and I spoke a lot last year. I honestly don't have much energy to fight through and say my opinion anymore, because it's not that easy to change something. I feel like I'm wasting more energy trying to do something different or to talk with the people. So, I mean, I'm just following the rules and trying to do the best out of what I have," Rybakina added.

Rybakina suggests more players could be pulling a Barty

In 2022 March, Barty shockingly announced her retirement at just the age of 25. At the time of her retirement, Barty was coming off her first Australian Open victory and she also the top-ranked player in the game and widely considered the best female tennis player. 

Barty's retirement made the headlines throughout the sports world as one of the best athletes from one sport retiring at such a young age while healthy and in its prime is something unprecedented. 

But now, Rybakina suggests he understands Barty and adds that more top players could be following that trend in the future if some things continue to happen. 

"If you want to see good quality of tennis, if you want to see players play long their career, not finish early maybe as Ash did, I think, in my opinion, it would be nice to change something. Of course public wants to see good tennis, good quality, but for the players, it's not easy," Rybakina said.

"I mean, of course I'm not here to complain. I'm playing and making good money, but, I mean, I would say that it's not the best thing when you are kind of without emotions and you’re just like on remote control going to play.”

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina © Getty Images Sport - Alex Grimm

When it comes to Rybakina, she will be turning 25 years in June. Currently, Rybakina is in her prime and being one of the best players in the game and it would be a major loss for women's tennis if she walked away from pro tennis in the near future.

Elena Rybakina Ashleigh Barty