Elena Rybakina coach Stefano Vukov has come under fire for seemingly berating the player from the sidelines during the Australian Open.
Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion, went down 6-4, 3-6, 4-6 to Aryna Sabalenka in the Australian Open final on Saturday.
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The 23-year-old found herself the centre of drama around her coach, who could be seen offering some choice words and gestures towards her throughout the tournament.
As I watch Rybakina try to win her second major in 7 months, I hope she finds a coach who speaks and treats her with respect at ALL times and does not ever accept anything less.
— Pam Shriver (@PHShriver) January 28, 2023
During her semi-final against Victoria Azarenka, Vukov was seen talking aggressively and pointing to his head after Rybakina failed to serve out the first set at 5-3.
“We were actually watching the box a lot through the match. I don’t know how she deals with the coach. He seems to be so negative,” former player Laura Robson said on Eurosport.
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The Tennis Podcast Twitter account commented: “I could very, very happily go for the rest of my life without seeing another shot of Elena Rybakina’s coach yelling at her. If any broadcast directors are listening/interested.”
Vukov was also seen in conversation with a tournament official at one point. However it wasn’t clear what the conversation was about.
He deserves a slap in the face with a chair. pic.twitter.com/rwyqUayMF6
— LorenaPopa 🕵️♀️🎾 (@popalorena) January 26, 2023
The coach defended himself saying it wasn’t fair to view the footage in isolation.
“I mean, first of all, I think that like it’s easy to just, you know, take clips and then make something controversial,” said Vukov.
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“I mean, this is part of our sport. It’s normal, you know. As coaching, you know, there is 10,000 people out there. To get attention of the player is definitely not easy.
“People don’t understand that. I have to scream out something if she’s off track. Then people can interpret this how they want.
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“But at the end of the day, we are just doing our job. Coaching is now allowed, and I think she’s using it in the best possible way.”
she made it to the top in spite of him pic.twitter.com/LVmlWkVAju
— Ryan (@Some1NamedRyan) January 27, 2023
Vukov, who reached a career-high of No 1,122 in the ATP Rankings, has been coaching Rybakina for the past four years.
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Rybakina started the 2019 season at World No 175, but she has surged up the rankings since teaming up with Vukov and finds herself in the top 10 following her run in Melbourne.
Their biggest success came at Wimbledon last year when Rybakina became the first player from Kazakhstan to win a Grand Slam, defeating Ons Jabeur in three sets in the final.
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On Saturday night during the final, American great Pam Shriver tweeted: “As I watch Rybakina try to win her second major in 7 months, I hope she finds a coach who speaks and treats her with respect at ALL times and does not ever accept anything less.”