Stefano Vukov, Elena Rybakina’s coach: “Swiatek may be in trouble…”
“Rybakina’s game seems to adapt at the slow conditions of Indian Wells…
Everything is going well, especially after arriving here following a small back injury in Dubai (she withdrew as a precaution in the 3rd round). The conditions are a bit difficult here, different from last year. It’s hot, it’s cold, hot, cold. It’s pretty usual here, but not with these extremities. And the surface is slower, yes.
But Elena knows how to adapt, during matches too. She is becoming more and more mature. There is no specific surface that she enjoys the most. I think it’s the grass. But it is comfortable everywhere and it suits me very well. But here it is more difficult for tall waitresses. It slows down, with the wind, the conditions… You hope to hit a winner and the ball comes back. Above all, you have to know how to properly adjust your footwork. And it’s not so simple with its size.
The digestion of the Wimbledon title does not seem to have been too hard to manage…
This success at Wimbledon is an experience. We continued on our way. Whatever the title, the day after, it’s over. It’s the only mentality to have, in fact. And have the appetite to progress. You know, she’s been through a lot of things in the past. The change of nationality (Russian, she became Kazakh), media pressure with things that have nothing to do with tennis (he thinks of the invasion of Ukraine)…
She knows how to cope, because she is used to it. After Wimbledon, there were a few months where it was necessary to understand what was going on, with ups and downs. Physically, she was not at her best after Wimbledon, the American tour was upset and she found the rhythm at the end of the season. We did five good weeks of preparation in Dubai during the off-season.
With a final at the Australian Open at stake (lost to Aryna Sabalenka) !
Yes, it was really a close final. One of the best finals in Melbourne for quite a few years. It was played on four-five points. But Elena reacted well after the defeat. She continued to believe in herself, in me, in her project. She never looks back. We’ve been working together since almost the beginning, having started on $25,000 tournaments.
If we project ourselves four or five years back, we see a completely different universe. We can only be proud and happy. We have not stopped working and looking forward, and making the effort. As a coach, my job is to push her, even if she doesn’t want to, sometimes. That’s what I’m paid for.
“Some players have made progress in their opposition against Swiatek”
How do you apprehend this semi-final against Swiatek?
Elena beat her twice in a few weeks. In Melbourne, but also at the World Tennis League exhibition in Dubai (6-3, 6-1 indoors). She had won the tournament with her team by winning all her matches. It means something, despite everything, because nobody wants to lose, even in a friendly. It set the tone when we arrived in Australia. It stays in your head. Here, the conditions are slower. There will undoubtedly be more rallies.
Can we still say that Swiatek is the undisputed leader of the circuit?
It remains for the moment the best. Especially with his great ability in the transition from a game in defense to attack against. Iga moves really well, she’s the only girl who can slide on hard, and on both sides. And she is very consistent, with a big mentality. But if she set the tone for others to improve, some players have progressed in their opposition against Swiatek, to find solutions.
Iga can be in trouble against players who have power, who put her on the back foot and cause her to miss a few forehands. Her serve can improve, we can get into the exchange with her. And against great waitresses who are having a good day, watch out…”