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Wimbledon star Rybakina dismisses Russian ‘product’ claims

NUR-SULTAN, KAZAKHSTAN (AFP) – Newly-crowned Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina yesterday dismissed Russian claims that she was its “product” as she spoke in Kazakhstan which she represented at the tournament.

Russian and Belarusian players were banned from Wimbledon this year after Russia sent troops to Ukraine but Moscow-born Rybakina was able to play as she had switched her allegiance to Kazakhstan in 2018.

At the weekend Russia appeared to claim her Grand Slam success when Russian tennis chief Shamil Tarpischev described Rybakina as “our product”.

“It’s very nice! Well done Rybakina! We win the Wimbledon tournament,” Tarpischev said.

Russia’s former world number one Yevgeny Kafelnikov reinforced that view in a post on Twitter on Monday.

“Buying a ready to use product from the producer does not take a lot of brains,” wrote retired Kafelnikov, who won the French and Australian Opens and an Olympic gold medal.

Rybakina’s parents still live in Moscow and she has been reluctant throughout the tournament to elaborate on how much time she spends in Russia.

“The transition from a junior to a professional career is very difficult,” Rybakina told journalists in Kazakhstan when asked to comment on the “product” tag.

“A good team is needed. Not everyone is able to continue at professional level and achieve some successes. Only a small number (can) and in this way I am very lucky.”

“So I am of course not really in agreement with that phrasing.”

Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina kisses the trophy as she celebrates after beating Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur to win the final of the women’s singles on Day 13 of the Wimbledon tennis championships in London. PHOTO: AFP