INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- Whether it was from behind the dais in the interview room or during her languid stroll around the Indian Wells Tennis Garden to fulfill tournament and sponsor duties, 2023 BNP Paribas Open champion Elena Rybakina could not stop smiling.
And who could blame her?
On Sunday, Rybakina capped off a remarkable two weeks in the California desert, where she knocked off the No.1 Iga Swiatek and No.2 Aryna Sabalenka in back-to-back matches to win her first WTA 1000 title.
"Super happy because I played a lot of finals and in the statistics, I lost more than I won," Rybakina told WTA Insider. "This is a really good win for me.
"I'm really happy that I actually managed to play until the end of this tournament because it was tough conditions. I kept saying it was a bit slow for me and in the end, I have to change my mind now coming back next year. All these things came together."
Rybakina is now 16-4 to start the season and sits at No.2 behind Sabalenka on the WTA Race to the Finals. She has already crossed off three career milestones from her list this year: a first win against a reigning No.1 (she now has two), a first WTA 1000 title and a Top 10 debut. On Monday she rose to a career-high No.7.
Rybakina joined the WTA Insider Podcast to explain why everything is coming together for her and what her strong season start means for the rest of the year.
Listen to the full interview on the newest episode of the WTA Insider Podcast below:
WTA Insider: You spoke this week about how important your training blocks have been for your success.
Rybakina: For sure it's the fitness part but also it's the experience from the last years. There was a lot going on in the last year off the court, so it was difficult to focus only on tennis.
I think now I'm set outside of the court, and I don't have to worry about anything, so it's a big part of this [success]. Mentally you're just preparing for the matches. After the win at Wimbledon, I kind of knew what to expect after these big wins. So I think it's all together the experience part, the things that are set outside the court, it's easier to organize, and then of course, fitness.
We did a good preseason and we're trying to maintain this level. It's not easy because if you're playing a lot of tournaments you can't do much fitness, but some stuff, like prevention, you can do. It's important to stay healthy. Unfortunately in Dubai it was a bit unlucky but we managed the situation good.
WTA Insider: What is so different for you off-court now compared to 12 months ago?
Rybakina: It's just organizing more or less things around the court. I think I had really good results, but then I was stopped by things we cannot control, either the pandemic or the schedule. There were a lot of things going on.
For now, I'm kind of prepared for anything. And we built with my coach the whole team around me: physio, fitness, hitting partner. It's big work. And I think it was just a matter of time.
WTA Insider: Your sister was here with you in Indian Wells. It seems she's become quite a good luck charm.
Rybakina: Every time she's coming with me it's always good results. Whether it was the win at Wimbledon, the whole family came to the final of the Australian Open, and she's here with me, so it's a win again. It's really nice to be around her.
Actually, when she talks to me she's very calm, but then I see all these videos during the matches and I'm like, what were you doing? She's very emotional and she supports me a lot.
WTA Insider: What do the Rybakina sisters do to kill the time in Indian Wells?
Rybakina: Here it was a bit more complicated because neither of us has a driver's license, so we were stuck with our coaches.
But we always have something to do. We stayed at a house this time. She was cooking a lot. I maybe tried to help once or twice but not often. We just talk a lot because I didn't see her in the last few years at all and it's nice to chat. Also if she has time she talks to my parents and she comes back with news from back home. It's always good time to spend with her.
WTA Insider: We have one more tournament before the tour turns to the clay. Do you consider yourself an all-surface threat?
Rybakina: The start of the season is important because it gives a bit more confidence, but it's still not easy changes with the surfaces. I believe I can play well on all of them but the question is to be always healthy because if not, it's impossible.
These little blocks of preparation are really important for me so we try to do our best with the team and hopefully the rest of the season will be the same as now.
WTA Insider: You, Aryna and Iga sit atop the WTA Race to the Finals standings and have split the three biggest titles of the season so far. Do you feel like the three of you are pulling away from the pack?
Rybakina: I think that it's still too early because there are too many tournaments ahead. But for sure the three of us have a really good start to the season and the question is who can maintain this level. For now it's like this but the season is still long, so we'll see how it's going to end.