It has been an incredible start to the year for Elena Rybakina- can the rising star reach her fourth final of the season when she faces Petra Martic in Dubai on Friday?
Rybakina has made at least the final in three of the four tournaments she has played this year, and the Kazakh is well on course to adding another one to the collection after another stunning week in Dubai.
The 20-year-old has claimed the huge scalp of Australian Open champion, Sofia Kenin and world No. 3, Karolina Pliskova in Dubai, while she has also beaten Czech, Katerina Siniakova en route the last four. The world No. 19 battled back from a set down to beat Kenin 6-7 6-3 6-3 in her opening match, before taking down Siniakova 6-3 6-3 in the second round. The rising star then accounted for second seed, Pliskova in Thursday’s quarter finals, fighting back from a break down in the opening set to win 7-6 6-3.
Rybakina out-aced Pliskova 11-3, while she won 80% of points on her first serve, and saved nine of the ten break points she faced. She improves to a superb 18-3 this season. The young gun already has one title this season, in Hobart, while she was runner-up in Shenzhen and St. Petersburg. The only tournament where she failed to make the final was the Australian Open, where she was beaten in the third round by Petra Kvitova.
Rybakina was way down at 182nd in the world at the start of last season, but she rocketed to a year-end mark of 37th, winning a maiden tour-level title in Bucharest, reaching the final in Nanchang and making semi-finals in s-Hertogenbosch and Luxembourg.
Can she take down Martic on Friday to reach her fourth final in 2020?
While Rybakina has been racking up the wins this year, Martic had struggled to string victories together, until Dubai.
The Croatian arrived the tournament with a 2-3 win-loss record for the season, losing out in the second round in Auckland and the Australian Open, and falling to Xiyu Wang in the opening round in Hua Hin last week, but she has finally managed to put a series of wins together in Dubai, beating Su-Wei Hsieh, Barbora Strycova and Anett Kontaveit, all in straight sets, to reach her first quarter final of the season.
Martic will hope to kick on from here and produced the sort of run that pushed her to a year-end top-15 ranking in 2019. She was also slow off the blocks last year, winning just three matches between January amd March, and slipping out of the top-50 as a result, but she was excellent after that, winning the Istanbul title, reaching the Zhengzhou final, and making semi-finals in Charleston and Birmingham, and quarter finals in Madrid, Roland Garros and Wuhan. The 29-year-old also made the fourth round at Wimbledon and the US Open.
Martic has again taken her time to get going this year, but she has been on the move in Dubai. Can she prevent Elena Rybakina from making another final when they meet for the first time on Friday?
As good as Martic has been this week, it’s hard to bet against Rybakina at the moment. She has already taken down a pair of high calibre opponent this week, and has got her sights set on yet another final.