Romania's Simona Halep returns the ball to US' Jennifer Brady during their Dubai Tennis Championships semi-final match in the Gulf emirate on February 21, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Top seed and former champion Simona Halep and the highly-exciting Elena Rybakina secured contrasting wins to ease into the final of the Dubai Duty Free Women’s Open.

A champion here in 2015, the highly-popular Halep stayed in total control for a 6-2, 6-0 win against American qualifier Jennifer Brady after Rybakina had moved into her fourth final of the season following a 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2) win against eighth seed Petra Martic.

The singles final will be at 7pm on Saturday and will be preceded by the doubles final at 5pm.

“It felt much better than previous matches. I played really well. Everything went in my side. I felt the ball great. I feel like I played the best match since I came here,” Halep admitted.

“It’s amazing what she’s done already this year. I saw her a little bit during some matches. But I don’t have the feeling how she’s playing because I think we never played together. She has a big serve. I have to pay attention on my return and to be like today: confident, aggressive if there is a chance, just fighting. It’s the best thing to do now,” the Romanian added.

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 the tournaments so far. Rybakina’s main weapon has been her serve as the Kazakh leads the Tour with 130 aces through her 22 matches so far. Friday’s four aces against Martic took her tally to 26 aces in her four matches this week so far.

“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.

Tennis - WTA Premier - Dubai Tennis Championships - Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Dubai, United Arab Emirates - February 21, 2020 Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina in action during her semi final match against Croatia's Petra Martic REUTERS/Christopher Pike Image Credit: REUTERS

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.”

Rybakina had to really hang in there saving 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 tie-break 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 tie-break 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 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.


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); Simona Halep bt Jennifer Brady 6-2, 6-0

Order of play (Saturday)

7pm: (Women’s Singles Final) Simona Halep vs Elena Rybakina.