Tennis Prose



Establishment Ignores Rybakina

By Scoop Malinowski

Elena Rybakina just won the biggest tennis tournament in the world as she conquered Ons Jabeur in three sets to win her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon.

But the tennis establishment is not exactly over-celebrating Rybakina’s historic, dream-come-true triumph.

She’s barely noticeable on the home page of the WTA web site. Major sponsors and endorsers are not frantically signing her to big money contracts like Emma Raducanu and Noami Osaka attracted.

Instead, Rybakina is getting the Sonia Kenin treatment. Unfortunately the corporate establishment isn’t much interested in polite, pretty, inspiring, against all odds, Eastern European female champions to help sell their products and craft their brand images.

In a sport that constantly promotes and demands “equality”, so far Rybakina isn’t getting her fair share of it.

Kenin won the AO and then reached the finals at Roland Garros and no. 4 in the world, but the expected, big sponsor and endorsement contracts were not offered to her. Instead, they all went to Emma and Osaka. Kenin, perhaps hurt by the snub and rejection, has fallen off the WTA radar and is currently ranked outside the top 100.

Now something to consider is what would the corporate and media reaction have been if Coco Gauff won Wimbledon? She’d probably still be all over the news, signing fat sponsor contracts every other day. The marketing machine would just be getting started. We all remember how the Coco hype exploded when she won a few Wimbledon and US Open matches a few years back.

Now compare it to the crickets for Rybakina and you can see the imbalance of equality.

Maybe this is the way the sport has evolved, it’s about creating superstars of certain ethnicity and background and then promoting them to maximum iconic popularity and revenues. Players like Rybakina, Iga, Kenin, Kerber, Halep, Muguruza, Barty, Ostapenko may play wonderful tennis but they just don’t fit the business model.

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  • catherine · July 21, 2022 at 2:50 pm

    Don’t know about the others Scoop, but Kerber got plenty of sponsors, glossy covers and nice contracts when she became No 1 – blonde German icon, photogenic – what more could you ask for ? Didn’t do her career much good though, in the short term.

    It’s not to do with ethnicity, it’s to do with how you come over to the media and fans. Some of the players you mention have rather subdued personalities. Not their fault but they just don’t get the tills ringing.

    And Wimbledon this year was an anomaly as far as the women were concerned. For some odd reason the world’s best player didn’t make it to the final….

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 21, 2022 at 3:36 pm

    Catherine, I have a Polish tennis player friend who thinks Iga tanked to Cornet. He saw her Polish interview the day before the match and he said Iga was actually downplaying her own chances, he was shocked by that strange behavior and didn’t bother to watch the match. Iga played a dumb match hitting too many offensive dumb errors over and over. He actually said that interview was a red flag and didn’t bother to watch it. If true, who knows why? Was it all set up for Coco who failed yet again? Everybody knows the establishment is overeager to see Coco become a superstar grand slam champion. So far no go. Kerber did not transcend the sport like Capriati, Williams, Graf, Evert, Emma, Osaka did. I’d say Kerber was more like a Barty type star, with limits to how much she can grow the sport and expand the base. Was disappointed to see the wta site completely ignore Barty’s new book series for kids. Such disrespect and ignorance of Barty would suggest they are glad to be rid of her, for whatever reason. Here’s some of her book series info.

  • catherine · July 22, 2022 at 3:04 am

    Scoop – I don’t think Iga actually tanked – she mentioned that possibility in her last interview at Wimbledon – but I do think she was spooked by the numbers, her winning streak, and this just got too much. She knows how to play on grass, she explained that well, but when the time came the pressure kicked in, and as she admitted “I didn’t know what to do”. Cornet of course took full advantage.

    You’re right about Angie – I remember having this conversation years ago – she’s an introverted person who doesn’t have an easy connection with the public which is essential for a transcendant type of figure. She seems to be aware of that. Something withheld. But she’s popular with kids – who don’t ask much.

    There are lots of things the WTA site ignores – sometimes I wonder what it’s there for. Don’t know if Ash’s books are published in the US. She seems very happy doing her own thing and of course being a popular figure in Australia. She never seemed very interested in the Osaka-type celebrity.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 22, 2022 at 7:42 am

    Catherine, strange time for Iga to suddenly forget how to play, have you ever seen a world no. 1 on a red hot streak of dominance suddenly forget how to play or “know what do to”? … Kerber is a unique cat… Barty also was a happy person as world no. 1 too, she enjoyed the role and thrived, she said and did all the right things naturally, wta could not have asked for a better person or character to be no.1. Barty did everything right and never showed any bad or controversial behavior. Her sudden departure still does not make sense for me. “The truth is never told, it has to be learned…”

  • catherine · July 26, 2022 at 3:21 pm

    Interesting little piece from Emma. I imagine there are aspects of the pro tennis environment she finds quite stressful. Finding friends could be difficult at first.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 26, 2022 at 4:05 pm

    Emma is the biggest star in the WTA today Catherine. Whatever she does or says is news. Barty and Iga are better players but Emma has the IT factor, the glamour, the smile and story that makes the media swoon. The future revenues and profits of the WTA may depend on Emma being the face of the sport.

  • catherine · July 27, 2022 at 1:42 am

    Yes, and that’s why it’s so important that she find ways to settle down and be comfortable with a circle of friends and support. Run-up to USO will be extra stress.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 27, 2022 at 8:50 am

    There is no stress. She won the US Open title last year. Her dream came true and her career is complete. The rest is all gravy.

  • catherine · July 27, 2022 at 9:59 am

    Well, if Emma’s career is complete then she’d better retire. She’ll have no motivation left.

    My view is that Emma is simply on her ‘gap year’, like many other UK school leavers who finished in 2021 she is taking a break before passing seamlessly into job, college etc. Although most school leavers don’t enter the USO as qualifiers and win it 🙂

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 27, 2022 at 10:08 am

    She is training hard and wants to win more but she is facing some resistance from other players. What she has done in tennis and is trying to do now is uncharted territory. No on has done what she did and dealt with what she is dealing with now as a shock US open champ turned global sensation overnight as an unknown teen.

  • catherine · July 28, 2022 at 5:38 am

    Stop Press: Emma hires Tursunov 🙂

    If true, is some ways an odd choice. Let’s see how it works out.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 28, 2022 at 6:40 am

    Catherine the only odd thing about this is why Tursunov wasn’t hired the day after Kontaveit dumped him. Emma is the smartest player in the wta and this proves it because there is no better coach today than Dmitry Tursunov.

  • catherine · July 28, 2022 at 8:42 am

    I would agree overall – but I think Tursunov’s had visa problems because he’s Russian.

    The deal seems to be a try out starting at the Citi Open.

  • Scoop Malinowski · July 28, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    Funny how Tursunov suddenly does not have visa problems now. Remember, the real reason is never said. “The truth is never told, it has to be learned.”



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