Behind The Mullet & Mustache, Rybakov’s Game On The Rise
A wrist injury may have disrupted Alex Rybakov’s plans for the final months of the 2022 season, but the American has wasted no time getting back to business this year.
Playing in just his second tournament after a four-month absence, Rybakov defeated Jonas Forejtek and Elmar Ejupovic in straight sets to reach the main draw of an ATP Tour event for the first time at this week’s Dallas Open.
The 26-year-old’s tour-level debut against countryman Marcos Giron on Tuesday at the indoor ATP 250 event will be made even more special by the fact that he spent four years cutting his teeth in college tennis at the nearby Texas Christian University. ATPTour.com spoke to Rybakov to find out more about the World No. 378 and his journey to the top level of the sport.
How does it feel to qualify for your first tour-level main draw?
It feels great. I’m stoked, honestly. I’m really just happy to be back on court. I was out for about four to five months with a wrist injury after the US Open, so I’m just happy to be playing and competing, and obviously qualifying for my first ATP [event] on top of that is just the cherry on top. I just really feel great being back on court, feeling healthy, and feeling like I can play matches at a full percentage.
Did it come as a surprise to you at all?
To be honest, I played my first match back last week [at an ATP Challenger Tour event] in Cleveland, and I was really nervous before the match because I wasn’t sure… When you’re playing a lot of matches, you’re kind of in the rhythm and you feel good, but I wasn’t really sure how my level was going to be. I was pleasantly surprised, I had a battle with [Aleksandar] Kovacevic and he ended up winning the tournament, so [I was] pleasantly surprised with my level.
Then when I came here, I didn’t even know if I was going to be in the tournament. I was one out [of the qualifying field], then I ended up sneaking in and saw that I had a pretty good draw, one of the lower seeds, and came out and just trusted what I’ve been working on in practice. It worked out, and I feel pretty good about my game right now.
You played college tennis just down the road in Fort Worth...
Yeah, I played at TCU. Luckily my coach from TCU was able to come out today and watch, and then a bunch of my friends that came out and watched today and yesterday as well. So, it’s a good feeling seeing them and having that support.
How did you get into tennis when you were younger?
My parents are both tennis coaches. So, my sister also played college tennis at FSU [Florida State University]. Since I was a little kid, I was just always on court. I saw my sister playing and obviously my parents wanted me to pick it up because they were coaching and they had played since they were young.
I fell in love with it from a young age, and from a young age I knew that I wanted to be a professional tennis player, so I had my sights set on that and I’m grateful to my parents for introducing me to it and I’ve loved it ever since.
Are they still coaching to this day?
Yeah, they still coach. My dad coached me until I was about 16 and then I started going to the USTA to practise there, and then went to college. They still watch my matches and give me tips here and there, but they’re not really my full coaches anymore. They’ve ‘retired’ into just my parents now!
Where do you train?
I train in Boca. I’ve been working with my coach Hugo Armando for [about] six months now, and also my strength and conditioning coach, Franco Herrero for about six months. I’m just trying to establish a little bit of a team around me, and they’ve really been great and I’ve really noticed a difference in my game and my fitness levels. I’m just really grateful to have them in my corner.
Do you have any goals for 2023?
I have some pretty ambitious goals. I feel like coming out of college with the whole COVID thing and less tournaments, and I’ve had some trouble with injuries… I feel like my ranking doesn’t really show where my game is right now. With that being said, one of my big goals is Top 100... That’s where I want to be by the end of the year. It’s going to take a lot of work and it’s going to take a lot of wins, and I know that, but that’s what I’m shooting for.
What do you want fans to know about you?
Just for the general public to see my passion for the game, and me enjoying myself and that I love tennis. Right now I have a mullet and a moustache, but I’d have to think about that a little bit more to give you a particular answer.
Are you still close with the TCU programme?
Obviously Devin Bowen, who is the Associate Head Coach, came out today, and hopefully [Head Coach David] Roditi comes out as well moving forward. I’m still close with some of the guys on the team, so I hope some of them are able to come out. Obviously with school and everything, it’s tough. I think it depends on what time I play. If it’s night session, I’m sure a lot of people will come out. I hope so.