Tennis Prose



Rivalry Analysis: Iga vs Rybakina

By Scoop Malinowski

Elena Rybakina appears to have solved the Iga Swiatek puzzle. Yesterday the 23 year old reigning Wimbledon champion beat the 21 year old world no. 1 for the third straight time this year in Rome but this time it came on the Polish powerhouse’s best surface red clay. Rybakina’s previous two wins vs Iga were on hard courts this year at AO round of 16 64 64 and Indian Wells SF 62 62.

Rybakina is now 3-1 head to head vs Iga – Iga won their first WTA meeting in 2021 Ostrava 76 62.

“It was a really tough match, especially the beginning,” Rybakina said after the Rome win yesterday. “I would say I didn’t start that good. With Iga, she was really aggressive from the beginning, she was more explosive, she was moving better. I was struggling with the first serve in the first set a lot, so it was not really helping me to play every time with a second serve. In the second set, I started to feel a little bit better.”

Iga’s supposed thigh injury late in the second set didn’t faze Rybakina. “I saw something happen in the tiebreak, on almost the last point but I didn’t know how serious it is,” Rybakina said. “I saw that the first two games she started really aggressive so I understood that she couldn’t really move that much, but she was still making good returns and I knew that I had to be focused. I know myself that if anything is hurting you’re trying to go for it and a lot of times it works. So she probably did the same, but after, I guess it was too much.”

The extraordinary baseline penetrating power of Rybakina has always given Swiatek problems. They actually met twice in juniors. The first match was at Canadian Open juniors in late summer 2016. Iga was fourteen then and won 62 62 in the QF.

They would have a rematch in spring 2017 at Trofeo Bonfiglio Campionati Internazionali d’Italia finals and the match pattern was similar to Rome. Iga won the first set handily 61 but then let the match slip away 67 36.

The evolution of the Ryakina vs Swiatek rivalry is beginning to look like a serious problem for the Polish juggernaut, who though she is the world’s best player, is having major difficulties trying to figure out how to offset Rybakina’s bold, offensive onslaughts. Could it be similar to how Martina Hingis was ultimately dethroned by the excessive power of the Williams sisters and Lindsay Davenport?

For sure, Swiatek will meticulously analyze and dissect Rybakina and search for solutions, ideas and processes to thwart her arch rival from Kazakhstan. Or she may have to inevitably accept the reality that every player on earth, even the greatest of the greatest, always have certain opponents who are simply their superior, their “kryptonite.”

 “I was coming to this match without any expectations and I’m just happy that in the second set I started to feel much better the forehand and started to move better,” Rybakina said. “So I think it was just good from me overall no matter the result. Just happy to play another match and looking forward to it.”

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  • catherine · May 20, 2023 at 1:40 am

    On the dark side. Myself, I may be naive but I simply can’t believe this was knowingly done by Simona. Possibility – someone, somewhere and at various times, was introducing something into her diet.

    It’s certainly the end of her career. Question mark on all her titles.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 20, 2023 at 6:40 am

    Catherine, hate to say it because I like Halep a lot and always did but this looks bad on her. It’s very unlikely the establishment has used corruption to frame Halep with a false positive test. It’s also very unlikely Mouratoglou or the ex husband are the reason for the positive test. If she is truly innocent she has to scream it and do a media interview campaign vehemently professing her innocence. You also sound subconsciously skeptical of Halep’s innocence. If you truly believed her you would not question all of her titles.

  • catherine · May 20, 2023 at 11:07 am

    I think I’ve maybe subsconsciously questioned her titles because that’s the position officialdom (and fans perhaps) would take. Caught out once and everything else is tainted.

    I also can’t believe this was happening when Cahill was her coach. However, I do suspect individuals elsewhere in Simona’s camp but I have no names to name and it would be unwise to be more specific. She’s conscious that her whole national sport setup is now under a cloud. That’s perhaps why she’s not being more aggressive in denial.

    Yes, I’d exonerate Patrick and ex-husband.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 20, 2023 at 5:41 pm

    Catherine, Halep is a major suspect now, as many players are. She’s had massive success, third all time on the money list, from a small country, she’s not an attraction or ticket seller anywhere really. It makes sense that the establishment has had enough of her and wants to usher in the new energy now. Frankly, even if she did use PEDs it doesn’t hurt her image, she was a great champion with class. Very likable. She played great tennis. There are many other suspects in the wta and atp. With the money at stake, you have to wonder how many other players tried to get an edge. It’s the way of modern sports.

    Let me share this interview with one of the most infamous PED experts and suppliers to pro athletes Angel Heredia…

    “There will be doping for as long as there is commercial sports, performance-related shoe contracts and television contracts.”

    Full interview…

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 20, 2023 at 5:42 pm

    SPIEGEL: So the idea that sports are a fair competition within established rules actually died long ago?

    HEREDIA: Yes, of course. Unless we were to go back to ancient times. Without television, without Adidas and Nike. It’s obvious: if you finish in 8th place at a big event, you get $5,000; if you finish first you get $100,000. Athletes think about this. Then they think that everyone else dopes anyway, and they are right. And you think athletes believe in morals and ideals? Peak performances without doping are a fairytale, my friend.

  • catherine · May 21, 2023 at 1:53 am

    Damp squib in Rome but Elena deserves the title. But why so many injuries ? and playing so late at night is bad for everyone. Big mistake extending Madrid.

    Back to sanity in Paris one hopes.

    PEDs or not (looks like this will never be resolved) Simona will remembered as a great player and a nice person. Let’s go for the Scottish verdict : ‘unproven’.

  • Scoop Malinowski · May 21, 2023 at 7:30 am

    Looks like Rybakina won the final by a tank, they agreed to play one set real and that’s it? Weird final, weird tournament. Hope the Rune Med final makes up for that disappointment.



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