The US Open Roars to Life

Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan seen during the training session in Bratislava, Slovakia on June 16, 2023. // Mihai Stetcu / Red Bull Content Pool

August 28, 2023 – New York, USA: As the US Open roars to life at Flushing Meadows, the world of tennis stands still, captivated by the unyielding energy and fervor that surround this prestigious event. Among the throngs of players competing for glory, we had the privilege of catching up with Elena Rybakina, the world-ranked number 4, to gain insight into her mindset, preparation, and hopes for the US Open. Rybakina’s candid and forthright views offer an intimate glimpse into the challenges and dreams that intertwine in the quest for a Grand Slam title.

Preparation for the US Open: Balancing Intense Training and Recovery

Elena Rybakina’s journey to the US Open began long before she set foot in New York. The weeks leading up to the tournament are crucial, and Rybakina, like many other top players, has a meticulous plan to ensure she’s in peak condition both physically and mentally.

“Now, as the tournament is about to start, we are physically not working too hard. We are trying to maintain the level,” Rybakina explains. “During the last two tournaments here in the US, I was physically not in the best condition. At this stage, it’s all about the right recovery. I need to feel 100% fit and get to this level.”

Rybakina emphasizes that her mental game is just as crucial as her physical prowess. With the bustling backdrop of New York City, maintaining focus becomes a unique challenge.

“Tennis-wise, I feel really good on court. Mentally, I would say the most important thing is to find a good mix,” she says. “Yes, the focus is on Tennis, but I also want to see a bit of the city. But I know that you can be very distracted here in New York as there is so much going on… I will try to spend some time outside the court, and for the rest, it’s all about recovery and focus on the matches.”

On Competitiveness and the US Open’s Home-Court Advantage

The US Open has a unique atmosphere, with American players historically performing exceptionally well on home soil. Rybakina, known for her fierce competitiveness, shares her insights on why this might be the case.

“First of all, I think that the support the US players get over here is fantastic. And that is one of the reasons why they always perform well at the US Open,” she notes. “For the competitiveness: We all are competitors. This comes from a young age for most of the players. I also think that if you have this mental toughness on the court, you are more or less the same person off the court. You have it in real life, also. It can be helpful.”

US Open Atmosphere: Love-Hate Relationship

The atmosphere at the US Open is known for being electric, with passionate fans and vocal support. Rybakina acknowledges the uniqueness of this environment, which can be both a blessing and a challenge.

“The atmosphere is crazy. It’s very loud everywhere… Normally, they go with the underdog or the Americans. That makes it not too easy. But I actually like it very much playing in front of US fans.”

Distractions On Court: Staying Focused Amidst the Chaos

Playing in New York City comes with its own set of distractions – from the tantalizing aromas of food to the constant hum of spectators and even overhead planes. So, how does Rybakina stay focused amidst such chaos?

“When I’m on the court, I’m really focused, especially when serving,” she explains. “I’m trying not to be distracted by anything. I speak to myself: Concentrate on the balls, look at your opponent, do not care about the noisy surroundings. It’s a lot about balancing these things. If the match is not going your way and the fans are behind you, I try to open myself and let their positive emotions flow into my head.”

Comparison to Previous Year: A Seasoned Approach

Rybakina’s performance at last year’s US Open was unexpected, especially after her Wimbledon triumph. She reflects on how she’s better prepared for this year’s tournament.

“After Wimbledon last year, it was not easy for me. There was a lot of attention on me as a person. New things were happening around me. I needed to understand all this. I didn’t have a good preparation for the US Open last year. This time, I feel more experienced. I know what is expected of me. It’s much easier. That gives me a good and positive feeling.”

Match Timings and Late-Night Challenges

Late-night matches are a unique feature of the US Open. While Rybakina prefers evening matches, she shares her thoughts on the challenges of playing past midnight and the importance of recovery.

“I like to play more in the evening but of course not late at night… At the US Open, we will always have one day off after matches. That makes it a bit easier. Playing at nighttime is crucial. Hopefully, I can avoid it.”

Injuries and Training: The Evolution of a Tennis Professional

Elena Rybakina’s journey into professional tennis started relatively late, at the age of 17. She faced unique challenges as she balanced school with her budding tennis career, and the consequences are now surfacing in the form of injuries.

“All my injuries are a result of becoming a professional tennis player at a relatively late stage of my career. Not many people know that I started with professional practicing around the age of 17. Before that, I only practiced within groups. I didn’t have a private coach. I also went to school and had to balance it. My fitness level couldn’t be at the highest point. So, I think a few injuries I am now experiencing are coming from the past. I also needed to know how my body works. But it’s like it is: You cannot control it. There are a lot of changes in tennis. For example, the balls are different from tournament to tournament. This could have an effect on your body as well. What I’ve learned from my coaches and physios is that my body is very sensitive to all these things.”

Outlook for the Tournament: A Fresh Start in 2023

As the 2023 US Open unfolds, tennis enthusiasts around the world are keenly observing Elena Rybakina’s journey. With renewed focus, experience, and determination, she is ready to face the challenges and is optimistic about her prospects.

Elena Rybakina’s insights provide a captivating glimpse into the dynamic world of professional tennis. As she navigates the bustling streets of New York and the electric atmosphere of the US Open, her quest for a Grand Slam title continues, making her a player to watch in the world of tennis.