Rybakina: If I play my best, I can beat anyone

Wimbledon champion confident in her abilities as a multi-surface threat

Elena Rybakina, Roland-Garros 2023, practice© Loïc Wacziak/FFT
 - Reem Abulleil

A Grand Slam champion on grass, and a WTA 1000 winner on hard courts, prior to Rome, Elena Rybakina may not have been considered an obvious favourite on clay courts.

But then she went on to lift the trophy at the Foro Italico last week and cemented her status as a multi-surface threat.

In her mind, Rybakina always knew she could be a force on clay.

Her first of five tour-level titles came on the red dirt and her first big breakthrough at the majors was an upset of Serena Williams on Paris’ terre battue to book a maiden Slam quarter-final appearance.

“On clay I think I won my first WTA, so since then I knew that I can play good on clay also. Just I need to prepare differently,” the 23-year-old Kazakhstani told reporters in the French capital on Friday.



“Maybe I need more time for the preparation. And also experience for the past few years.

“Overall I think that I'm improving a lot physically, and also I played a lot of matches this year. No matter the surface, I feel like it's anyway giving me confidence.”

Elena Rybakina, Roland-Garros 2023, Media Day©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Breaking new ground

Without points from her Wimbledon triumph counting towards her ranking, it took a lot for Rybakina to finally crack the top four.

A 27-8 record for the season, which includes trophy tilts in Indian Wells and Rome, and finalist showings at the Australian Open and Miami, has guaranteed Rybakina the top-four seeding at a Grand Slam for the first time.

“I don't think about the rankings so much. Of course it's nice to see the progress also with the ranking, but I have been playing well I think last year also, and now I'm just getting a bit more consistent, doing good job with the team. I just want to keep on going like this, and we see how far I can go this year,” she said.

Elena Rybakina, Roland-Garros 2023, practice©Loïc Wacziak / FFT

Forging ahead

With three wins over Iga Swiatek this campaign, and a 1-1 record against Aryna Sabalenka in 2023, Rybakina is fast-developing an intriguing rivalry with the world’s top two and she admits they’ve been “pushing each other” to be better all year.

The big-hitting Kazakh opens her Roland-Garros journey against Czech teen qualifier Brenda Fruhvirtova, with a potential quarter-final meeting with Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur looming, before a possible showdown with Swiatek in the last four.

“It's impossible to play every time good and feel great, but I feel for sure no matter the surface, if I play my best, I can beat anyone,” she declares.

Hard to argue with that statement.

Elena Rybakina, Roland-Garros 2023, practice©Loïc Wacziak / FFT