Rybakina’s coach explains withdrawal from Tokyo event after No 3 seed criticised tournament for use of “performance byes”

The Kazakh had planned her schedule on the basis that she would get a first-round bye

Elena Rybakina, Roland-Garros 2023 AI / Reuters / Panoramic

Elena Rybakina pulled out of the Tokyo Pan Pacific Open on Monday, a day after criticising the tournament for the way it awarded byes to two players ranked below her, bumping her down the pecking order.

As the No 3 seed, former Wimbledon champion Rybakina expected to be given a first-round bye – as part of the top four – but while the top two – Iga Swiatek and Jessica Pegula – were given byes, Rybakina was overlooked in favour of Maria Sakkari and Caroline Garcia, who were awarded “performance byes” due to their performances in Guadalajara last week.

Rybakina was understandably frustrated, taking to social media to criticise the WTA for “changing the rules” and on Monday, the Kazakh pulled out of the draw.

“I’m really sorry to have to withdraw from Tokyo this year,” Rybakina said. “I was really looking forward to playing the event and I love the city. I have to prioritise my health and fitness and need time to get to 100 per cent health.”

The Kazakh’s coach, Stefano Vukov, has since issued a statement on Instagram addressing the issue as well, saying:

“Just to make things clear, there is no explanation of what a performance bye is. What does this mean? Do we add byes to help performing players? Or do we take away ranking earned byes? And isn’t ranking itself a sign of performance?

“Last year we came from a final in Europe and played in Japan two days later and performance byes no where to be found. The issue is always the same lack of communication. This will also apply from Tokyo 500 to Beijing 1000 next week. Four performance byes will be awarded. Most players have already qualified for the final eight, so for what reason should they even compete before Cancun [WTA Finals].

“The reason is that most tournaments are mandatory, and fines are given out to players if you don’t compete in them. Players always pay the consequences. The system doesn’t work. The marketing is terrible as you can all see Elena qualified weeks ago, and just yesterday WTA decided to post something.

“We need transparency,” Vukov concluded. “All players need to understand what is going on. Stop blaming players for mistakes made by the system itself.”

Rybakina had been due to play Linda Noskova in the first round, with the Czech player now facing Himeno Sakatsume instead.

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