Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina swept past Ana Bogdan in straight sets at the Zavarovalnica Sava Portoroz to reach the final of the WTA 250 tournament in Slovenia, where she will meet Katerina Siniakova, who came through 2 matches on Saturday, beating Jasmine Paolini and Anna-Lena Friedsam to get there.
Rybakina, the World No 25 from Kazakstan, eased through, 6-1 6-1, against Bogdan, the 65th-ranked Romanian, to reach her 3rd final of the season.
Having lost the final in Adelaide to Australian Ash Barty, Rybakina surprised with her first Grand Slam success at Wimbledon in July against Ons Jabeur from Tunisia.
The 3rd seed got off to a difficult start here in Slovenia, needing 3hr 20min to dispatch 173th-ranked Laura Siegemund from German in the 1st-round, but the 23-year-old Russian-born Kazakh had time to recover when her quarter-final was abandoned after her opponent, Lesia Tsurenko from Ukraine, withdrew ahead of the match.
On Saturday, Rybakina was on song, sweeping past Bogdan in an hour and 24 minutes to book her spot in Sunday’s final against Siniakova, who had to win two matches on the day to make the appointment.
Rybakina converted 5 of her 11 break points against Bogdan in their first meeting and while the Romanian had her chances to squeeze into the match, holding 8 break points herself, the Kazakh erased them all.
A series of commanding forehands gave Rybakina the service hold to close out the opening set, and she then used her other wing to take the early lead in the second, firing a backhand winner off a drop-shot to break for 2-1.
Rybakina prevailed in a back-and-forth affair 2 games later, converting her 4th break point of that game to claim a 4-1 advantage.
Bogdan made a last-ditch attempt in the next game, grabbing 4 break points of her own, but Rybakina swatted each of them away before clinching the comfortable win.
Siniakova had a much longer day but, as the current WTA Doubles World No 1, the Czech is accustomed to playing multiple matches in a short span when necessary.
Earlier, Siniakova first outlasted defending champion Paolini from Italy, 6-2 3-6 7-6(5), in a rain-postponed quarter-final to start the day in a match that took 2 hours 34 minutes.
Despite the time on court, Siniakova had enough in the tank for a straight-sets win later in the day when she returned to notch up her 6-1 7-5 semi-final win over German qualifier Friedsam in an hour 29 minutes.
Friedsam had knocked out No 1 seed Emma Raducanu from Great Britain in the 1st-round earlier in the week.
Siniakova had 11 winners to just 1 by Friedsam in the first set and, while the second set proved much more competitive, with the German finding frequent success with chip-and-charge tactics, the Czech gritted through a see-sawing final game before breaking for the win on her 6th match point.
Rybakina and Siniakova will face off for the 7th time in their careers, with the 3rd-seeded Kazakh holding the edge with a 4-2 lead in their head-to-head record.
Their only match this year went Rybakina’s way when Siniakova retired with an abdominal injury while trailing by a set in Madrid.
On Sunday, Rybakina will bid for her 2nd title of the year and the 4th of her career.
Grand Slam champions tend to suffer from a bit of hangover, dropping their form in the next few events, but Rybakina didn’t show it in the lead-up to the US Open as the opponents she was losing to were elite in Daria Kasatkina, Madison Keys, Cori Gauff, but something started going wrong with her defeat against Clara Burel in New York.
She has clearly regained her form in Portoroz, though, as has Siniakova, after the 26-year-old Czech grabbed a title at a stacked 100K ITF in Grodzisk Mazowiecki over a month ago, but only found one singles win during the North American hard-court season.