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Dubai | Halep cruises to meet Rybakina in Duty Free final

Dubai | Halep cruises to meet Rybakina in Duty Free final

Elena Rybakina may be running on fumes but she found sufficient reserves to save set points and overcome Petra Martic in her Dubai Duty Free semi-final on Friday and will now face Simona Halep in the final, who swept past Jennifer Brady with consummate ease. 


So tired, but happy! First set it was not easy because she plays really good. She has really good slices. Her serve, it's not flat like I played with Pliskova for example. It's completely different style of game. It was not easy to start against her. But I tried to work every point. Elena Rybakina

While it took Halep just 2 minutes over an hour to cruise past the American, 6-2 6-0, Rybakina had to come back from a break down and saved a set point in each set to overcome Martic, 7-6(5) 7-6(2) after 2 hours and 11 minutes.

“So tired, but happy!” smiled Rybakina afterwards. “First set it was not easy because she plays really good.

“She has really good slices. Her serve, it’s not flat like I played with Pliskova for example. It’s completely different style of game.

“It was not easy to start against her. But I tried to work every point.

“Second set, I was 3-0 down, but I knew it’s going to be easier to win this set than play a third one. I wanted to win second so much.”

The 20-year old Kazakh was ranked World No 192 this time last year but, in the past 8 months, has now reached the 6 WTA final in her young career, Dubai Duty Free marking her second at Premier level.

Rybakina won the title in Bucharest last July and Hobart a month ago, and was the runner-up in Nanchang, Shenzhen and St. Petersburg.

In fact, this is her 4th final of the year, and she has won 19 of her 22 matches played this season.

This week she doubled her career total of Top 20 wins to 6 after taking the scalps of Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, former World No 1 Karolina Pliskova, and now, in a gripping contrast of styles, mastered the craft and variety of Martic in their first meeting.

Rybakina struck 32 winners to 23 unforced errors, an impressive ratio against the wiles and athleticism of her Croatian opponent.

The opening set started with three consecutive breaks. Martic broke twice and maintained her lead until 5-4 when Rybakina broke back in the 10th game to draw level at 5-5, forcing the first set to the tiebreak in which the Kazakh saved a set point with a forehand pass and then sealed it on her 4th opportunity with a volley.

Martic earned an early break to open up a 3-0 lead in the second and Rybakina saved herself from going down a double break, then clawing her way back despite her fatigue.

She came to within two points from losing the set, saving a set point at 5-6 with a backhand winner and forcing the issue in a 2nd breaker.

Rybakina raced out to a 6-1 lead in the tiebreak and sealed the win on her 2nd match point with another backhand winner.

“I have to adjust because everything is new to me,” said Rybakina. “It is always great to beat a player from the top 5.

“I alway try to do my best and want to win every match. I was focusing on on what I had to do.”

Her opponent in the final is the World No ? and current Wimbledon champion Simona Halep, who cruised past US qualifier Jennifer Brady with the loss of just 2 games.

Halep saved the only 2 break points she faced and hit 16 winners to 8 unforced errors.

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

The 2015 Dubai champion had won her two previous matches against Brady, but both of those encounters had been challenges, including a first-round tussle at the Australian Open last month.

In Dubai, though, the top seed had her most straightforward encounter against the rising American, collecting the victory after just 62 minutes of play.

“It’s fun when you feel the ball and when you can do anything you want,” said Halep. “Today it was one of those days, I could open the court easy. I felt like every time I hit the ball, I feel it.”

About taking on the talented Rybakina in the final, Halep added: “It’s amazing what [she] done already this year. I saw her a little bit during some matches. 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.”

“It’s always a nice opportunity and privilege to play the last match of the tournament. I play for another trophy, so I’m relaxed. I’m focused. I really want it.”

Elena Rybakina came through against Petra Martic to reach her 4th final of the year

© Francois Nel/Getty Images

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