PARIS (Reuters) – Elena Rybakina was only three months old when Serena Williams won the first of her 23 Grand Slam singles titles in 1999.
On Sunday the Moscow-born player, who represents Kazakhstan, halted the American’s bid for a record-equalling 24th with a 6-3 7-5 win to reach the quarter-finals of the French Open.
There was no big celebration though from the 21-year-old whose reaction was as if she had just finished a practice session, rather than beating a true great of the sport in her first ever match against her.
From the moment Rybakina polished off her first two service games without dropping a point she looked completely unfazed by the reputation of the player across the net.
And she finished the match off as coolly as she ‘celebrated’.
“Everybody laughs about my reactions, to be honest, but I mean, for me it’s much easier like this, not to show any reactions,” the 21-year-old Rybakina said of her nonchalant response to the biggest win of her career.
“Of course inside it’s like a lot of different emotions. I’m happy. I’m really calm person, but on top of this, all
my nerves inside sometimes is good. Sometimes of course it’s not, because to hold everything inside it’s not possible.
“One day it’s going to explode, and who knows when, so it’s dangerous for other people, especially close ones.”
Rybakina, who is playing in only her seventh Grand Slam main draw, will now face 31st seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the last 16.
“I just try to forget now about this match and keep on focusing for another on,” she said.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis)