The Kazakhstani player was supposed to compete at the WTA 500 tournament in Tokyo, but it seems that she wasn't 100% healthy, as she withdrew from the event. The withdrawal came only a few days after the draw came out, which showed that Rybakina would need to play a first-round match as she didn't receive a first-round bye as the third seed.
That was because of a simple reason. Performance byes were used in Tokyo, giving Maria Sakkari and Caroline Garcia a chance to travel from Guadalajara, where they competed, to Tokyo, and still recover and prepare for the tournament.
According to Rybakina, the WTA changed the rules at the last minute, but those claims were refuted by doubles player Nicole Melichar-Martinez, and now, also Sakkari and Garcia said the same things, claiming the rule is not a new one.
"This is not a new rule, I think it has been in place for about 14 years, and that's actually the case. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this rule was temporarily removed. However, in the past, this performance bye was also used in Beijing."
"We have already been aware of the fact that there will be a performance bye since the tournament will be held from Mexico to Tokyo for about 5 months. I was informed that performance byes are also applied when traveling from Tokyo to Beijing."
Sakkari explained that the rule was in place before, and while its return may have caught Rybakina off guard, it wasn't anything new or never seen before. When talking to the press, Garcia said similar things.
"It's a really long journey from Mexico to Japan, and considering the time difference, you'll lose two days. I think this rule is necessary because we have to continue playing under such circumstances. In the past, it was also adopted in Beijing and Wuhan."
"We knew in advance that there would be a performance bye at this tournament. We were informed of this, and I think this is important in order to maintain our rhythm."