Elena Rybakina claimed her first win over a top 5 opponent on Thursday when she defeated world number 4 Karolina Pliskova 7-6 (1) 6-3 to reach the semi-finals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, and she was joined by qualifier Jennifer Brady, who overcame Australian Open finalist Garbine Muguruza 6-7 (5) 6-3 6-4.
Rybakina’s win continues a remarkable run. She was ranked 192 a year ago and this week she entered the top 20 for the first time at 19. She has won more matches than any other player on the WTA Tour this year, leads the WTA Tour in the number of aces hit, and she has reached the final of three out of the four tournaments she has played in 2020, winning Hobart and finishing as runner-up at the Shenzhen Open and last Sunday in St. Petersburg.
Elena Rybakina, Karolina Pliskova, Garbine Muguruza, Australian Open, Jennifer, Dubai Duty Free
Even changing from playing indoors in the Russian winter to playing outdoors in the heat of Dubai has not broken her stride, as in her very first match at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships she defeated recent Australian Open winner Sofia Kenin.
“Elena Rybakina has been enjoying a remarkable season and we have been very impressed with the progress she has made here this week,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “It will be very interesting to see if she can continue her fantastic start to 2020 and reach her fourth final of the year this weekend. Jennifer Brady too has impressed us with her upset of two of the players who began the tournament as a possible champion.”
“I knew I have to serve good today,” said Rybakina, who hit 11 aces against Pliskova. “I knew also that it’s not going to be long rallies. I was preparing myself just to return. First three balls I had to play, like, really focused. I was trying to do it. It was hot. It was tough match because first time actually I played here in the heat. It was really difficult for me to came just from indoors. I thought that I will have problems with the serve because indoors it’s different feeling. I’m surprised with my serve, that I’m really doing good, yeah.”
Despite her defeat, Pliskova was not too disappointed with her week and how she had played
“She played well. I didn’t do that much wrong,” said Pliskova. “Overall I think I tried to be aggressive which with her is tough because you don’t get that many chances to be aggressive, especially on the returns. It was about a couple points. It could go both ways I think. Not every week not making the final is a bad week. For me was not bad week here. A lot of positives. I thought my attitude was great.”
Brady had begun the season by beating world number 1 Ashleigh Barty in Brisbane and when she arrived in Dubai she did not drop a set in qualifying before upsetting former two-time champion Elina Svitolina in the first round.
“I think really the match started from 3-2 in the second set for me,” said Brady of her match against Muguruza. “Never really felt like I was in the match from the very beginning. I think maybe a bit of nerves from both of us. Yeah, happy that I was able to close it out at the end. I wasn’t feeling my best. Yeah, maybe didn’t play my best tennis, but just found a way to stay in there, compete, come out on top.”
Muguruza felt she wasn’t able to capitalize on her chances. “I had so many opportunities. I can’t count how many I had,” she said. “They didn’t go my way. I felt like every time I had an opportunity she was playing well the point, serving big, making winners. I was expecting a tough match. I mean, she’s playing great. I think she’s confident, her shots are getting in. I think she has a very good serve. Her ball is pretty hard.”
“Every day this week has produced some great surprises and excellent performances from players who may not have been familiar to Dubai tennis fans,” said Tournament Director Salah Tahlak. “We had expected that becoming accustomed to the courts during the qualifying competition might be an advantage to some, and Jennifer Brady believes that has helped her progress so far this week. It will be interesting to see if she can go even further.” – email@example.com