Tennis-Rybakina to enter top 10 but says career boost won't change her

Tennis - Australian Open - Women's Singles Final - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 28, 2023 Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina reacts during her final match against Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka REUTERS/Jaimi Joy

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Elena Rybakina will become the first Kazakh tennis player to enter the top 10 singles world rankings after her run to the Australian Open final on Saturday, making up somewhat for the points she missed out on in her Wimbledon triumph last summer.

But the Russian-born player said the lift would not change her.

"I don't think tomorrow I'm going to feel different just because of the ranking now," she told reporters.

Rybakina, who switched allegiance to Kazakhstan in 2018, was beaten 4-6 6-3 6-4 by Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka in the Melbourne Park final and will rise to number 10 in the world from number 25 when the rankings are updated on Monday.

She lost out on 2,000 ranking points after her Wimbledon win because the Grand Slam was stripped of points for banning Russian and Belarusian players over the war in Ukraine. But she shrugged off having to start her Australian Open campaign on an outer court.

"For sure, it's going to be different in the smaller tournaments I would say. I'm going to be seeded. Maybe in some tournaments I'm not going to play in the first round.

"So of course there are some benefits out of this. But for sure I don't really look at the numbers or rankings so much."

Rybakina said reaching a second major final so quickly after her first had eased some of the pressure of expectations.

"Yeah, for sure. Even I would say I'm trying to not think about expectations and everything," Rybakina said.

"I think in the end it's just confidence to go forward, to keep on working. Now I have more confidence, even after this final. I just need to work hard, same as I did during pre-season and actually throughout the years, be healthy and for sure the results are going to come."

Kazakhstan Tennis Federation president Bulat Utemuratov said reaching the final was a feat in itself after Rybakina defeated three Grand Slam champions along the way in Iga Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka.

"It's clear that Elena is feeling increasingly confident on different types of surfaces, intelligently adapting her tactics depending on her opponents, and improving her game," Utemuratov said in a statement.

"Hopefully this great performance at the Australian Open will mark the start of a successful year of play for Elena."

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Melbourne; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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