Olga Klyuchnikova is Elena Rybakina’s first coach. It was to her that a five-year-old Muscovite first came to the court to get acquainted with tennis. There – at the Dynamo base – she stayed for three years. But because of the tennis system of the time, they had to part ways.

In an exclusive interview with “Championship” Klyuchnikova spoke about the main quality of Elena, her relationship with her father and the tears of the then young Muscovite.

Have you watched the Wimbledon final?
– No, I didn’t watch it, because I live outside the city and I don’t have a broadcast here. How did you track the path on the grid? No, but I’m very happy for her.

– Lena studied with you from five to seven years. Did you already feel the potential?
– Yes, I came to the group, I’m her first coach, I worked with her for three years. Did it feel like she was a possible Wimbledon winner even then? No, it was not felt, but she treated the classes very well: for her level, she listened carefully to what she was told. And in general, it was such a gambling: competitions, relay races Lena was very excited. It was incredibly gambling!

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– Although after Wimbledon you can’t say that! She seemed so calm, collected, emotionless. Was it always there?
– She splashed out emotions later – if there were any. It was still childish. In group classes, there were completely different emotions: she was reserved.

– Is it a plus for tennis?
Yes, I think it’s a plus.

Elena Rybakina and Ons Zhaber

Elena Rybakina and Ons Zhaber

Photo: Getty Images

– When did she show these emotions more often and in front of whom?
– She shared with me, discussed some competitive moments together. And there were tears too. If she spilled all of them in this lesson, then this was not the case in another. That is, she drew conclusions.

Is that Elena’s hallmark?
She heard and trusted. I think that it was laid down by her and therefore so [сложилось]. She heard what she was told. I wanted to play tennis. Although no one has set such a task. She just did her job honestly. Hard work is good, as is character.

You broke up because…
– It was a general group, the initial stage. According to the old school, then it was necessary to transfer the players further. Now parents do it themselves. Was it hard to leave? It was initial training, group classes, so the individuality itself appears later. I enjoyed working with her.

– And what was her relationship with her father – Andrei Rybakin?
— Good, always understanding, friendly. She has a very good family, they supported her, well done. I told Andrew this. The title of Rybakina – the faith of parents, first of all? Yes, yes, diligence and patience.

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– However, many in the tennis world are divided: some believe that this is the merit of the Russian Tennis Federation, others – Kazakhstan … Is it fair?
– In general, everything initially comes from the family and in childhood. And on this base – which is laid down in the family, in group tennis lessons – on this correctly constructed material, you can go further. It’s my opinion. And what the federations think… It doesn’t matter.

– What difficulties then does the junior face before entering the professional tour?
– There are no professionals. I am a pupil of the old school, I studied with Nina Sergeevna Teplyakova (nine-time champion of the USSR, trained about 20 masters of sports of the USSR, including Elizaveta Chuvyrina, Anna Dmitrieva and Olga Morozova. – Approx. “Championship”). And as I came to my first coach, Natalya Mikhailovna Polshchikova, I am still with her through life together. So such a tandem is needed in adolescence. Because you can gain mastery when you have already moved from youth tennis to adult tennis.

– The main thing is to find such a person?
Yes, and trust!

– You stopped communicating with her, how did the group break up?
– We heard about each other, rejoiced all the time success. But she did not prompt, since this was already her path and I have nothing to do with it.

Elena Rybakina

Elena Rybakina

Photo: Kazakhstan Tennis Federation

— Do you keep in touch with Andrey Rybakin?
– Yes. It was very pleasant: found, congratulated on the fact that Lena took the title. I am grateful to him for this – that he remembers! Throughout her career, there were also some tips when she left Dynamo. But they themselves chose the path and achieved the result.

– At what stage is it clear that the player has matured?
– Yes, already in juniors it’s clear. Does the tennis federation influence this process? Do not know. There should be help from the federation, but there are too many people there. I am a practitioner, on the court. And this is the kitchen – I’m not interested. So I moved away from it.

356 million rubles or 2.9 billion tenge!  How much did a native of Moscow earn thanks to Wimbledon
356 million rubles or 2.9 billion tenge! How much did a native of Moscow earn thanks to Wimbledon

– Did you meet the same gambling and hardworking children as Lena after?
— Yes, there were. The 27-year-old Maxim Lunkin, who later left for America, started with me, Sasha Bogomolov was studying. Dasha Afanasyeva was in the group, she was also in America, she was engaged in university tennis.

– Did you start at Dynamo?
— Yes, she came by herself at the age of seven. Then the correct selection was by sports – by qualities: by coordination of movements or by jump set, they chose a sport. With this I fully agreed. Then there were paid groups: paid – and teach to play tennis. I didn’t like it very much, I didn’t agree with the situation. So Lena is one of the last groups that I led.

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