The 20-year-old Elena Rybakina has been one of the players to beat this season, reaching final in three out of four tournaments played in 2020 and cracking the top-20 for the first time. The Moscow native lost the final in Shenzhen before winning Hobart, losing to Ashleigh Barty in the third round of the Australian Open before another final run in St.
Peterburg. Competing as the top-20 player for the first time, Elena kicked off the Dubai campaign with a 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 triumph over the Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin. It was the first clash of the youngsters and Elena was the one who stood stronger and stronger as the encounter progressed, fending off four out of five break chances and earning four breaks from ten opportunities to seal the deal and reach the last 16.
Playing her first match since that incredible Melbourne run, Sofia grabbed a break in the first game of the encounter and forged a 5-3 advantage before Elena pulled the break back in the very last moment, reaching a tie break that Kenin grabbed 7-2 with a return winner after 47 minutes.
Saving two break chances at the beginning of the second set, Rybakina moved in front with a return winner at 3-3, securing another one at 5-3 to force a decider and gained a massive boost. There, Elena secured a break at 4-3, saving a break point with a forehand winner in the next game and sealing the deal with a service winner that propelled her through.
"I am happy that all my hard work is paying off," Rybakina said. "To be honest, I wasn't nervous at all because I knew it was going to be tough. I told myself it's good practice, without expecting that I would win.
I mean, I tried to do my best, but I was not nervous. I believed that I could score a victory. I didn't think that she had just won the Australian Open because I know that now everyone can beat anyone."