Bulat Utemuratov: «There are many great victories ahead for Elena»

09.07.2022    Views: 1055
Source: KTF press-service
President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation Bulat Utemuratov in an exclusive interview with the press service of the KTF shared the reasons for the successful performance of Elena Rybakina at Wimbledon.

Bulat Utemuratov and Elena Rybakina - Wimbledon 2022
- Mr. Bulat, was Elena Rybakina's excellent performance at Wimbledon a surprise for you?
- «I'm very happy with Elena's success! She was able to show her great potential and an extremely high level of play against very strong opponents. But it was not a surprise. Rybakina had been improving on a consistent basis and heading towards this type of success for some time.  In 2018 she was ranked around 200 WTA and by 2019 she was already among the TOP-40 WTA. By 2020 she finished the year ranked  number 19 and in 2021 she moved to finish the year world ranked number 14. This year she got as high as number 12 and I always believed that with this type of gradual improvement it was a matter of time before she would win a big tournament like Wimbledon».

- What do you think of Elena's performance in the Final?
- «Lena started a bit slowly as she was obviously nervous but by the second set she was serving much better and this, combined with her hard hit groundstrokes, changed the course of the match and she was able, in the last two sets, to increase the tempo and to implement the attacking game plan she had for the match. Jabeur fought until the end, and a very important game was in the third set at 3:2 when it was 0:40 on Lena's serve. At this crucial moment of the match, Lena showed real fighting qualities, high concentration to win 5 straight points and was able to prevent Jabeur from getting back into the match.»

Elena Rybakina - Wimbledon 2022
- After the semifinal, Rybakina underscored that she is grateful to all the fans for the support - she feels it all the time. But she said a special thanks to you for flying to London and supporting her personally. Was your decision spontaneous or did you always plan to fly in and support our players if necessary?
- «I try, whenever possible, to watch both our professional and junior players play in both team and in individual events. Given the large number of matches a year I don't always get to watch everything in person and usually just keep track of results and scores and often discuss the players with their private coaches. But at big tournaments, like Masters 1000 and Grand Slams, I try to be actively involved. I enjoy very much the personal contact with our players and coaches and like to sometimes attend their practice and discuss matters that might concern them. In case of high performance, I try to come and support them personally. When Yaroslava Shvedova, Yulia Putintseva and other players were playing important matches, I was always there. I was on the center court of Wimbledon when the national anthem of Kazakhstan was played and the flag of Kazakhstan was raised when Yaroslava and Vanya King won the women’s doubles title. Last year I was at the men's doubles final at Roland Garros, where our team of Alexander Bublik and Andrey Golubev played and came so close to capturing the title. This time, right after the quarterfinal win of Elena, I decided to support her personally and to travel to London. It is a special feeling to be on the center court of Wimbledon in the players' box and to be able to actively support and cheer for the player, which is not usually allowed in the Presidential or Royal Box. The emotions today were just overwhelming».

- In tennis-specific terms, what was the key to Rybakina's success at Wimbledon?
- «Elena played great during those two weeks. Her powerful serve, her hard hit forehands, her steady backhand and her speed and movements around the court made her very hard to beat. Of course, there was a lot of excitement and psychological pressure, which she was able to overcome, and she remained focused and calm throughout the two weeks. It is very good that Lena has established a close connection with the public who are obviously warm to her. It helps that she has excellent knowledge of English and that she is so professional at press conferences and interviews, and this greatly contributes to her popularity with the tennis media and fans.

Bulat Utemuratov and Elena Rybakina - Wimbledon 2022
- But the grass surface of Wimbledon is very specific. Many great players of the past and present never managed to achieve good results here during their entire career. 
- «Elena is an all-rounder. She showed her best results at Grand Slams and Olympics in 2021 on absolutely different surfaces: on clay in the quarterfinals of Roland Garros, on grass here at Wimbledon where she was close to beating Sabalenka and reaching the bronze medal match on hard court in the Tokyo Olympics. It was not an easy path for Lena to the Wimbledon title. Despite finishing them mostly in 2 sets in involved a tough win over American Coco Vandeweghe 7:6, 7:5 then a very tough match against Canada's Bianca Andreescu winning6:4, 7:6, then China's Zheng Qinwen beaten 7:6, 7:5, and of course her match against Croatia's Petra Martic which she won 7:5, 6:3. The quarterfinal against Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia was a three-set match which showed that Elena was ready to fight hard for the title and the straight set semifinal win against Simona Halep of Romania confirmed it.

- Rybakina's successful performance drew the attention of the entire country and even the President of the country Kassym-Jomart Tokayev congratulated her on her Wimbledon victory.
- «The Head of our State is a man who understands and loves sports and I know that he has been following all of the main sporting events including Wimbledon. He not only understands tennis, but he also plays tennis and table tennis. You may have seen that recently Mr. Tokayev played a table tennis with Turkish President Erdogan. Our President knows very well that behind the success of each athlete is a lot of hard work and years of sacrifice. Certainly, both Elena and all the tennis community of Kazakhstan were very pleased that the Head of the country recognized KTF and Kazakhstan success and congratulated Lena on` the victory». 

- As President of the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation, how do you feel now after Rybakina's success?
- «This is a clear example of how years of hard work of an athlete, her team, and support from her parents and the KTF convert into success on the court. The endless flights between tournaments, sleepless nights, hours of training, and discipline and sacrifice which is a daily part of a tennis players life paid off for Lena. Lena's strengths also include her high intellectual level and focus, her strong work ethic, and having a strong team around her, including a tennis coach, fitness coach, and physio therapist means she has everything necessary to help her perform at her best. The Kazakhstan Tennis Federation has created the basic conditions of support for Lena over the past years, but behind the victories is Lena's and her team's daily hard work. All these things I listed above at the end of the day helped today to put Kazakhstan into the singles record books at the most prestigious world tennis competitions-Wimbledon».

Elena Rybakina - Wimbledon 2022
- Didn't Rybakina even want to end her career at one time? 
«Yes, there was such a period in Elena's tennis career at the age of 18 when she considered stopping. But we could see her talent and I was very happy that we could support her at the right moment when she was on the verge of quitting tennis and help her reach hear true potential. Help from our Federation at a crucial time in her sporting and human life proved to be effective, and we are glad that we were able to give her an opportunity to achieve her dreams. If she continues with the same consistent development of her career, she has many more brilliant victories ahead».

Elena Rybakina - Wimbledon 2022

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