Under the Patronage of H.h. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai
World No.19 Elena Rybakina continued her hot-streak of form to navigate past Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin 6-7(2) 6-3 6-3 to surge into the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships second round.
Rybakina was ranked 192 a year ago and this week she entered the top 20 for the first time at 19. She has won more matches – 16 – than any other player on the WTA Tour this year, and reached the final of three out of the four tournaments she has played, winning Hobart, whilst finishing as runner-up at the Shenzhen Open and on Sunday in St. Petersburg.
“I’m so happy with the win today. I had a good pre-season actually, I’ve been working a lot” said Rybakina, explaining her success in 2020. “First time I did like six weeks of preparation. I feel good on court. Of course, tired today because of the flight. I just finished a tournament. But still I feel confidence.
“To be honest, I didn’t (feel) nervous at all because I knew it’s going to be tough. I didn’t expect that I will win. I mean, I tried to do my best, but I was not nervous.
“Of course I believed. I didn’t think that she just won Australian Open because I know that now everyone could beat everyone. I didn’t think about this.”
No.5 seed Kenin was left to reflect but praised her opponent’s quality.
“She’s having a lot of match play. She’s having great results. She’s playing some really good tennis. I think this is the best tennis that I’ve seen her play. I know her, but I’ve never played her. Yeah, she’s playing big, serving, playing freely. She’s playing as if she has no pressure and it’s helping her,” explained Kenin, admitting her status as a Grand Slam winner will take time to adapt.
“In Australia I felt like I was on a roll. I had a lot of matches. Here I’m just starting first match. Obviously a bit more pressure coming from my side. But I just got to somehow try to manage it for the next tournaments.
“I just didn’t feel my game really well. Of course, yeah, she played well. I just made too many unforced errors. I just didn’t take my chances. I felt really off the whole match. I tried to somehow get back in there, hang in there, but it just didn’t work out today.”
Rybakina moves on to face qualifier Katerina Siniakova in the last 16.
“I’m so happy with my win today!”
— WTA (@WTA) February 18, 2020
“We have enjoyed so many remarkable performances today,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “In particular, the way in which Pavlyuchenkova recovered from such an intimidating start by our defending champion was thrilling to watch, and the fact that already two Dubai champions and the Australian Open winner have failed to get past the first round underlines how very strong our field of players is. It is impossible to guess who will be crowned as our 2020 champion on Saturday.”
Tournament director Salah Tahlak added, “Jennifer Brady clearly benefited from having already played three matches to reach the main draw, adjusting well to the conditions. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has continued the good form she showed in reaching the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, and Rybakina showed tremendous stamina by coming from playing indoors in Russia on Sunday, flying straight to Dubai and then playing so well against a Grand Slam champion. The results today underline that there are no easy matches for any player in the main draw, even those who have succeeded at the very highest level here.”
The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, which is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, begins with the WTA event which continues until 22nd February and is then followed between 24th and 29th February by the ATP tournament which features Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Gael Monfils and Roberto Bautista Agut.