Russian-born Rybakina ‘happy’ to rep Kazakhstan

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LONDON — After advancing to the Wimbledon final with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Simona Halep on Thursday, Elena Rybakina was faced with questions about her ties to Russia, despite representing Kazakhstan.

Rybakina, 23, was born and raised in Moscow, and originally represented Russia, but switched to represent Kazakhstan in 2018 in order to gain additional funding for her career. But with Wimbledon’s controversial ban of Russian and Belarusian players, due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Rybakina’s country of origin has become of interest.

Having been asked about her connection to Russia throughout the tournament, Rybakina was brief in her responses on the topic after her semifinal match.

“I’m playing already for Kazakhstan for a long time,” Rybakina said. “I’m really happy representing Kazakhstan. They believed in me. There is no more question about how I feel. It’s just already long time my journey as a Kazak player. I played Olympics, Fed Cup.”

Believed to still live and train primarily in the Russian capital, Rybakina didn’t answer a question directly from a reporter about her current residence.

“I think I’m based on tour because I’m traveling every week,” Rybakina said. “I think most of the time I spend on tour. I practice in Slovakia between the tournaments. I had camps in Dubai. So I don’t live anywhere, to be honest.”

Rybakina said she felt badly for the Russian players who were unable to participate but didn’t say if she was in touch with any of them, or had heard from them during her run. Instead she said she hadn’t been checking her phone often.

Ranked No. 23 in the world, Rybakina became the first player representing Kazakhstan to reach a major final. She will take on Ons Jabeur, another first-time Grand Slam finalist, on Saturday with the Wimbledon title on the line.

The Duchess of Cambridge is expected to present the trophy to the champion.

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