Elena Rybakina survives Wimbledon scare: 'Federer made me nervous' | Inquirer Sports

Elena Rybakina survives Wimbledon scare: ‘Federer made me nervous’

/ 04:14 PM July 05, 2023

Elena Rybakina Wimbledon

Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina wipes her face as she plays US player Shelby Rogers during their women’s singles tennis match on the second day of the 2023 Wimbledon Championships at The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 4, 2023. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

Defending champion Elena Rybakina survived a Centre Court scare to reach the Wimbledon second round on Tuesday, blaming her nervous start partly on the presence of Roger Federer sitting in the royal box.

Rybakina saw off Shelby Rogers of the United States 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 in the first round as retired eight-time Wimbledon champion Federer looked on.

“Maybe that’s why I was nervous because actually I really like Roger. When I was younger, I was always watching him play,” she said.

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“The atmosphere and the attention of being on Centre Court, it’s different than last year, because last year I started on a smaller court.

“Straightaway you go to this big court. I think for me it’s now a new chapter and this is something I need to get used to and try to maintain my level.”

The 24-year-old Kazakh arrived in London under a cloud after struggling with a virus which saw her suffer an early loss in Berlin before pulling out of Eastbourne.

“I’m feeling much better although it wasn’t easy to get back to fitness,” said Rybakina.

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“I’m happy to get the win and it gives more confidence for the next round.”

Rybakina also took to the court wearing black shorts under her white dress.

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This year, the All England Club has relaxed its traditionally strict all-white clothing rule for female players to help alleviate period anxiety.

“I think it’s good to have an option. But the same time I was also fine with all white,” said Rybakina.

“I think changes are good, and we still have the same tradition to be in full white. It’s just maybe a little adjustment. Overall I think it’s good.”

Rogers, 31, had defeated Rybakina on grass at ‘s-Hertogenbosch last year and initially she was in charge again under the roof of Centre Court as the All England Club was deluged by torrential rain.

The champion double-faulted on the first point on her way to being broken.

That was enough to give the 49th-ranked Rogers the foundation to claim the opening set.

Suddenly, Rybakina was looking at becoming the first defending champion to lose in the opening round since Steffi Graf was beaten by Lori McNeil in 1994.

However, she steadied the ship, racing into a 5-0 lead in the second set before leveling the tie.

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A double break in the decider then set her comfortably on her way to victory and a second round clash with either Alize Cornet of France or Japan’s Nao Hibino.

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