Elena Rybakina performs during the training session in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on  December, 16, 2023
© Mihai Stetcu/Red Bull Content Pool

Queen of aces Elena Rybakina: how she outplays the rest

Tennis star Elena Rybakina is known for her powerful serve - it's something she can rely on. This is how the Kazakh athlete uses a special technique to outplay her opponents.
Written by Klaus Bellstedt
3 min readUpdated on
At the 2024 Madrid Open, it happened again: Elena Rybakina pulled off the remarkable feat of serving three consecutive aces in her semi-final match against Aryna Sabalenka. Sabalenka ranked second in the world and two places ahead of Rybakina, repeatedly shook her head in disbelief. The powerful balls from her opponent just flew past her. It is also true that Sabalenka dramatically won the Madrid semi-final in three sets, but once again, this wonderful tennis match highlighted how exceptionally well Rybakina can serve. In this significant Masters 1000 event in the Spanish capital, Rybakina hit nine aces against Sabalenka in that match alone. Rybakina has already won three titles this year. It could have been a few more.
Discover how Elena Rybakina controls her emotions in the podcast below...

Serving up success

Tennis is always a game of data and statistics. If you take a closer look at Rybakina's serve numbers, you quickly get a feeling for how important the serve is to her overall performance. In her 35 matches to the end of May 2024, she produced a whopping 229 aces. That's 6.5 aces per match. No other player on the tour has such a record.
How strong her serve can also be seen from another number: Rybakina, who won the two Masters 1000 tournaments in Indian Wells and Rome in 2023, has a serve rate of 72.1 percent of points won after the first serve. Her fastest serve was measured at the Billie Jean King Finals in 2022. At that time, the 2023 Australian Open finalist thundered the ball over the net at 202.5kph [125.5mph].

Honing the technique

If you look a little closer at Rybakina's serve, her most important shot is not just based on pure power. A lot of it is due to her precise ball toss. Using a very special technique, the Kazakh manages to ensure that the ball barely moves in the air. This helps her hit the perfect 'sweet spot' with the racket when she serves. Rybakina knows the importance of her serve, which is one of the best shots in women's tennis. And she continues to work towards perfection. She adapts and adjusts again and again.
In 2023, she made a small change to her serving motion to achieve more consistent execution: “It's just a matter of hitting more serves with the same motion, getting that power and timing just right. So it's a continuous work," she said. Rybakina's main goal when working on her serve is to improve her first serve rate. And there is progress. Last year's rate was 56.6 percent, and Elena is currently at 62.5 percent at the end of May 2024.
Elena Rybakina performs during the training session in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on  December, 16, 2023

Elena Rybakina spends long hours honing her technique

© Mihai Stetcu/Red Bull Content Pool


Beating the best of the best

Rybakina says her serve is “pretty OK”. That is, of course, a massive understatement, but with such statements, the 24-year-old also wants to draw some attention away from the apparent one-dimensionality of her game. Rybakina's successes are largely due to her patience and a new kind of control with which she has learned to play.
By beginning of July, Rybakina has already won 35 matches this year and lost only seven. It is an incredible record. Only the world number one, Iga Swiatek, has a better record (45/4). For Elena, in this now beginning crucial period of the season, it means managing her strength, recovering properly, and relying on what she does best: serving.

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Elena Rybakina

The first Kazakhstani tennis player to win a major tournament, Elena Rybakina is a powerhouse of the game with her sights set on becoming world number one.

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