Furious former Wimbledon champion blasts WTA over last minute rule change

Elena Rybakina has criticised the WTA following a last-minute rule change. The 24-year-old is set to compete in the upcoming Japan Open, her first tournament since a third-round exit at the US Open three weeks ago.

However, she is not happy after learning just before the draw was made that she will begin her campaign in the Far East on Monday against Linda Noskova. This is due to a concept called ‘performance byes’, which is being tested by the Japan tournament.

The rule regarding performance byes has been in operation since WTA Premier Mandatory events – now called WTA 1000s – were brought in for the 2009 season. The WTA has used them at tournaments many times, including between Antwerp and Dubai back in 2015. Rather than being handed an automatic bye and not playing the first round, if a player is seeded in the top four, a performance bye will give certain players the chance to skip the event’s opening round depending on recent results.

In this instance, Maria Sakkari and Caroline Garcia were given byes following the former’s run to the Guadalajara title, and the latter reached the semi-finals in the Mexican city, losing to the eventual champion. Therefore, they will start their campaign a day or two later as they miss the first round.

Given the former Wimbledon champion has not played since the US Open and her last strong showing came at the Montreal Masters where she made the last four, she did not have a bye and has to begin her campaign in the first round, despite being the tournament’s No. 3 seed.

The 2022 Wimbledon champion was furious with the timing of the decision and made her feelings known on social media. “Performance bye. Thank you for changing the rules last moment. Great decisions as always WTA,” Rybakina wrote on X.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenko or Donna Vekic will be waiting in the second round should the Australian Open runner-up defeat Noskova. Rybakina could compete against defending champion and seventh seed Liudmila Samsonova in the quarter-finals should she progress that far.

This is not the first time the Kazakhstani tennis player has voiced her displeasure with the WTA. Rybakina dubbed the WTA “weak” following the weather disrupting the Montreal Open schedule. She and her opponent Daria Kasatkina did not start playing until after 4 am GMT, which lasted nearly four hours and did not end until 7:55 am GMT.

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Rybakina said she suffered physically as a result and her results have not been the same since that tournament in August. “I think it’s been a little bit unprofessional from the – I cannot say really the tournament because I think that the most important is the WTA here,” she said after losing to Samsonova in Canada.

“Leadership is a little bit weak for now, but hopefully something is going to change because this year it was many situations which I cannot really understand.”

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