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 didn't feel my game well but, of course, Elena played at a high level. I made too many unforced errors and didn't take my chances. I tried to get back somehow but it just didn't work out today. Rybakina is having a lot of match play and great results, playing some excellent tennis.
I think this is the best tennis that I've seen her play; I know her, but I've never played her. She's serving big and playing freely as if she has no pressure. It's just a different situation in comparison to Melbourne.
I felt like I was on a roll at the Australian Open, playing some encounters before the beginning of the first Major of the season. In Dubai, it was like I had to start all over and with a bit more pressure coming from my side.
Body-wise, everything is fine; I'm not injured or anything. I'm just a little bit tired, obviously. Other than that, I feel fine and ready to go. I'm not happy with the result, feeling upset about it. I thought I could have somehow turned it around; I felt like I had the match play and confidence but it didn't work out today.
Doha is the next event for me and will try to do my best. There's a lot more tournaments coming up, more important ones. Hopefully, I can play better in Indian Wells and Miami; those are big events that count. Hopefully, I can play doubles at the Olympics.
I would love to play with Bethanie if possible. We haven't talked about it but I hope we can make it. I think if I weren't hard on myself, I wouldn't have good results. I feel like I need to be hard on myself to make sure I'm still in check and doing what I want to do and playing how I want to play."