But yesterday the 23-year-old became the first Kazakhstani player to make the semi-finals of a Grand Slam when she came from behind to beat Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic 4-6. 6-2, 6-3.
The big-serving Rybakina switched federations when her adopted country were keen to recruit tennis prospects. “It was very good timing because they were looking for a player and I was looking for some help. They believed in me,” she said.
“They made everything possible for me to keep playing, keep improving.” So what does she feel, Kazak or Russian? “I mean, it's a tough question. I was born in Russia, but of course I’m representing Kazakhstan and I'm feeling just the support of the people and very happy.”
Rybakina was asked about the ban on Russians and Belarusians being at the tournament and whether, being Moscow-born, she feared she might suffer. “It wasn’t something I wanted because we are playing sport,” she said. “Everybody wants to compete. They were not choosing where they were born.” She yearns for the conflict to be over. “I just want the war to end as soon as possible. Peace, yeah.”
In the semi-final Rybakina will come up against 2019 champ Simona Halep who overcame the challenge of America’s Amanda Anisimova. “A great match today and I'm really pleased with the way I played. It feels pretty special,” said the Romanian.
The score was 6-2, 6-4, Halep surviving a late rally by Anisimova after the 20-year-old suffered something of an emotional breakdown. “I got very upset because I wasn’t performing well. In such a packed stadium that was very disappointing,” she said. “I have to work on my nerves.”
Halep sympathised with her opponent. “It can be pretty emotional playing quarter-finals on Centre Court,” she said. “Probably the emotions are big. I’ve been through them myself many years ago and they’re not easy to handle. But they’re nice emotions so next time she’ll be better, for sure.”