Doha: Iga Swiatek to play against 'nightmare matchup' Elena Rybakina for title

Rybakina and Swiatek set to meet for the first time this season and it is a final of a WTA 1000 tournament.

by Dzevad Mesic
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Doha: Iga Swiatek to play against 'nightmare matchup' Elena Rybakina for title
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Defending champion Iga Swiatek and No. 3 seed Elena Rybakina are set to square off in the first WTA 1000 final of the year after sealing final spots on Friday. 

Swiatek, the No. 1 seed in Doha, was scheduled to take on former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova in the Doha semifinal. But Pliskova - who won five matches in Cluj-Napoca last week before also winning her opening four matches in Doha this week - withdrew from the Swiatek match due to a lower-back injury.

Iga Swiatek
Iga Swiatek© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

After the news of the Pliskova withdrawal was announced, Rybakina took to the court to take on Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Rybakina, ranked at No. 4 in the world, routinely handled the business against Pavlyuchenkova, beating the Russian 6-2 6-4.

Rybakina destroys Pavlyuchenkova to set up a Swiatek final in Doha

Through the opening four games of the match, not a single break point was seen. Then, Rybakina put it in another gear as the third-seeded Kazakh claimed back-to-back breaks in the fifth and seventh games en route to winning the next four games and sealing the first set in style. 

After winning the last five games of the first set, Rybakina also broke Pavlyuchenkova in the first game of the second set and served out the following game for a 2-0 lead in the set. In the fourth game, Pavlyuchenkova put major pressure on Rybakina but the Kazakh managed to save six break points before opening a 3-1 lead. 

After preventing Pavlyuchenkova from getting the break back, Rybakina broke the Russian again in the fifth game to go up by a double break before also serving out the following game for a 5-1 lead.

Down by a set and a double break, Pavlyuchenkova refused to quit, winning the next three games. In the 10th game, Pavlyuchenkova had a break point to completely get back into the set but Rybakina managed to save it before realizing her second match point to seal a two-set win.

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

Rybakina has won the last three meetings against Swiatek

When Swiatek, 22, and 24-year-old Rybakina meet in the Doha final, it will be their fifth meeting. Going into the match, Rybakina owns a 3-1 head-to-head against Swiatek.

In the first meeting between the two in 2021 Ostrava, Swiatek beat Rybakina in two sets. Since then, Rybakina has clinched three straight wins over Swiatek, overcoming the Pole last year at the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Rome. At the Australian Open and Indian Wells, Rybakina beat Swiatek in straight sets while she won their Rome meeting after the Pole retired in the third set due to injury.

Elena Rybakina and Iga Swiatek
Elena Rybakina and Iga Swiatek© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney
 

Rybakina is certainly a very tough matchup for Swiatek and it will be interesting to see if the top-seeded Pole can end her three-match losing streak against the Kazakh and win her third consecutive Doha title.

Iga Swiatek Elena Rybakina
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