Elena Rybakina first player since Naomi Osaka in 2019, 2020 to achieve this feat

Rybakina's series of consecutive three-set wins led to her emulating a very impressive Osaka feat.

by Dzevad Mesic
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Elena Rybakina first player since Naomi Osaka in 2019, 2020 to achieve this feat
© Getty Images Sport - Alex Grimm

Elena Rybakina clinched yet another hard-fought three-set win and also became the first player since Naomi Osaka to win at least 10 consecutive three-setters, via OptaAce.

On Friday, world No. 4 Rybakina survived a tight battle as she edged out 14th-ranked Jasmine Paolini 6-3 5-7 6-3. For Rybakina, that was her 10th three-set win since February. By winning her last 10 matches that went into three sets, Rybakina became the first player since Osaka to do so - the Japanese tennis star won 12 consecutive three-setters between the 2019 French Open and 2020 Brisbane. 

In mid-January, Rybakina suffered a thriller 4-6 6-4 6-7 (20) loss to Anna Blinkova after blowing six match points in their Australian Open second-round match. Since returning to action in February, Rybakina has played 10 three-setters and hasn't lost one. 

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina© Getty Images Sport - Alex Grimm
 

In her first post-Australian Open tournament, Rybakina won Abu Dhabi and defeated Danielle Collins and Liudmila Samsonova in three sets en route to winning the title. During the Middle East swing, Rybakina played two more three-setters as she beat Emma Navarro in Doha and Magdalena Frech in Dubai, respectively. En route to making the Miami final, Rybakina had three-set wins over Clara Tauson, Taylor Townsend, Maria Sakkari and Veronika Azarenka.

So far this week in Stuttgart, Rybakina has played two matches and it was three-set wins over Veronika Kudermetova and Paolini.

Rybakina on playing and overcoming three-set battles

Over the last two months, the majority of Rybakina's matches have gone three sets. In most cases, those matches are long and demanding and require a lot physically and mentally. And today was no exception as Rybakina needed two hours and 10 minutes of play before completing a win over an inspired Paolini.

"Well, the preparation for clay was quite short for me, but I mean, I'm feeling okay after these long matches. Of course sore here and there but no issues, which I'm happy with," Rybakina said after her latest three-set win.

"Of course it's nicer to finish matches in two sets, but, I mean, opponent played really well today. I had my chances, didn't take them, but overall I'm happy with the game, and hopefully I can just play better and better with time."

Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina© Getty Images Sport - Alex Grimm
 

After losing a very tight second set - during which she was up by a break early - Rybakina also dropped her serve early in the third set and found herself 0-2 down. But Rybakina was able to respond and bounce back by winning six of the next seven games to complete a win over Paolini.

"Yes, of course you're trying to focus on these important moments more. As I said, I had chances. She played well, and then sometimes I'm too hard on myself. I'm, like, I could have done better, but also, she played well," Rybakina explained.

"So it's, like, not battle with each other, but it's not easy sometimes when you miss easy ball and, like, just kind of forget, and here with my game I get a lot of these floating balls which you need to really pay attention and I'm trying to come forward much more. Of course it's a lot about mental in the end of the day."

Rybakina on playing next against Iga Swiatek

In the Stuttgart semifinal, there will be an absolute showdown as Rybakina is set to play against defending champion Swiatek. Over the last few years, Rybakina is the player who has had the most success against Swiatek, beating her three times in their last four matches played since the Pole became the world No. 1 in 2022. 

After ending on the winning side against Swiatek last year at the Australian Open, Indian Wells and Rome, Rybakina lost to the current world No. 1 in the Doha final in February. For Swiatek, that was her second win over Rybakina - she also beat the Kazakh in Ostrava in 2021.

Elena Rybakina and Iga Swiatek
Elena Rybakina and Iga Swiatek © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

Heading into their newest matchup, Rybakina - who owns a 3-2 head-to-head against Swiatek - the Kazakh showed major respect for the Pole but also underlined she feels well about her chances whenever she is playing her game.

"Well, it's always of course tough to play against Iga, and I feel like we are pushing each other till the limits. I remember this year when we played exhibition and you're just coming out of preseason and it's very tough. She started really intense, and I'm, like, I need to keep it up (smiling)," Rybakina said.

"I think it's nice to play against her. Of course I want to win, but I need to be also realistic. She's very good player on clay. She's maybe a little bit more favorite now, but again, if I play well, I serve well, I move good, I have all the chances. So I'm just happy to play against her."

Elena Rybakina Naomi Osaka
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