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Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina returns the ball to Croatia's Petra Martic during their Dubai Tennis Championships semi-final match in the Gulf emirate on February 21, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The highly-talented Elena Rybakina allowed her dream run to continue while making her way to a fourth final this year with a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2) win over eighth seed Petra Martic at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, on Friday.

Losing finalist against Kiki Bertens at the St Petersburg Open last weekend, Rybakina showed signs of tiredness, but still managed to do enough to go through in straight sets against her higher-ranked opponent from Croatia.

The 20-year-old Rybakina has been showing scant regard on court against higher-ranked players on the WTA.

After dispatching Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in their opening round, Rybakina hit 11 aces to roll past world No 3 and second seed, Karolina Pliskova in their quarter-finals on Thursday.

Rybakina was simply happy at making a fourth final in just under two months. “In the first set it was not easy because she played really well. She has really good slices and her serve is not flat like I played with Pliskova for example. It’s a completely different style of game,” she narrated.

“It was not easy to start against her. But I tried to work every point. In the second set, I was 0-3 down, but I knew it was going to be easier to win this set than play a third one. I wanted to win the second set so much,” she smiled.

Making her debut in Dubai, Rybakina had already reached three finals in the four tournaments she has played so far on the tour. She lost the Shenzhen final to Ekaterina Alexandrova, beat Shuai Zhang for the Hobart International title before going down to Bertens in the Sibur Arena in St Petersburg last Sunday.

Last year, Elena Rybakina was nominated for 2019 WTA Newcomer of the Year Award. Rybakina has now improved her winning record to 19 from the 22 matches she has played at tournaments so far.

Rybakina admitted she didn’t have the best day out on court, but still managed to cling on for a win against a player ranked four spots above her. “I didn’t start to serve good in the first set. Then in important moments I managed to serve really good and the serve helped me today,” she added.

“I was fighting for every point.”

The semi-final was no easy task for the 20-year-old as she managed to save set points in both sets. After both players had exchanged early breaks in the first set, it was Martic who showed better temperament with a second break in the third game to go 3-1 on serve. But Rybakina clawed her way back and broke in the tenth to finally win the tiebreak 7-5.

In the second set, once again it was Martic dominating early with a break in the second and go 3-0 up. Rybakina broke back in the seventh and then played a disciplined tiebreak to win it 7-2 as her growing legion of fans rose to toast her win. “I really didn’t have anything to lose,” Rybakina said.

“It’s amazing so far and hopefully I can continue to play like this year and in the next few years too,” she related.

“I just sleep a lot. I tried to sleep a lot today. I played at 5pm, so it’s good. I’m going to the physio now, just the usual stretching routine, watch some of the second match and then off to rest,” Rybakina added.

She will await the winner of the second semi-final between top seed Simona Halep and American qualifier Jennifer Brady.


Doubles semi-final: Barbora Krejcikova/Saisai Zheng bt Desirae Krawczyk/Alison Riske 6-2, 6-2

Singles semi-final: Elena Rybakina bt Petra Martic 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2)