Stuttgart | Rybakina stops Swiatek, lines up Kostyuk in final

Elena Rybakina found a way to end Iga Swiatek’s reign in Stuttgart, and she will face Marta Kostyuk for the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix title on Sunday.

I think it’s just style of the game. Iga, she moves really well, and she likes to dominate in the rally. With me, it’s difficult because I play fast, I play flatter, and also like to move the opponent. So it’s, kind of, I think, match-up where we are both pushing each other, both trying to dominate in the point. Elena Rybakina

With her 6-3 4-6 6-3 win over the World No 1, Rybakina stopped defending champion Swiatek’s bid for a 3rd straight title, and a 3rd Porsche for her garage.

Ironically, Rybakina doesn’t have a driving license, yet.

“It was very tough match, like always, against Iga,” Rybakina said afterwards. “I was fighting for every ball, it was such a close match. Really happy that I won on clay. Gives confidence, of course.

“Of course she likes the courts. For me, it’s a bit difficult to move. It’s really slippery and you need to be very strong.

“I’m really happy that I managed to win and I showed a good game.”

Rybakina ended the Pole’s Swiatek’s perfect record in Stuttgart by handing her first defeat in 11 matches at the WTA 500 tournament, and the Russian-born Kazakh 4th seed will take on surprise Ukrainian finalist Kostyuk next.

Kostyuk resumed her break-out run with 7-6(2) 6-2 win over reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova.

“Definitely was shorter match than the ones I had before today,” Kostyuk said later. “It feels great. Obviously to be in the final of this tournament, it’s amazing. Really looking forward to tomorrow already. Yeah, was a very good fight today.

Kostyuk was appearing in her 3rd straight semi-final, which was her best career run so far.

“I think it’s trust the process, really, like, I really excelled this week, and I tried in every match to just do as much as I can, and yeah, things are getting better,” Kostyuk said. “I think this is the most important thing for me.

“Of course I’m very pleased, and very happy and surprised that I’m in the finals, but, you know, tomorrow is another match, so I’m getting ready.”

Elena Rybakina edged past Iga Swiatek in 3 sets to reach the final against Marta Kostyuk at the WTA 500 in Stuttgart

© Alex Grimm/Getty Images

In the first semi-final on Saturday, Swiatek began brightly enough, breaking serve in the opening game and holding to take a 2-0 lead, but Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champion, then won 5 games in a row, breaking twice, and saw out the first set as she fired 4 aces along the way.

The second went with serve for the first 9 games, with Swiatek saving 2 break points in the opener and Rybakina hitting a further 4 aces before the Pole made the decisive break to pocket the set, and force the decider.

Rybakina threatened early in the third, with Swiatek saving 5 break points to hold for a 2-1 lead, but the 4th seed broke through to go 3-2 up, and fired another ace to save a break point before holding on to the next game.

At 2-4 down, the World No 1 rallied to serve to love, and held a break point to level the set, but Rybakina clung on again, and then broke once more to reach the final after 2 hours and 49-minutes of enthralling tennis.

“It was, kind of, a battle who starts the rally, who starts to dominate, but it’s always tough to break against Iga, we push each other, and I’m really happy that today I managed to win,” Rybakina said, who finished with 10 aces and hammered Swiatek’s second serve, holding her to just 37%.

Both finished poorly on break chances, with Swiatek 2-for-13 and Rybakina 4-for-20.

“I was serving much better today, I think, just because also you play against such a good player that you know that every point counts, and I was pushing myself,” Rybakina added. “First two matches, I was adapting a bit to the conditions, to the balls, and, maybe, I was serving a little bit more passive.

“Today I was going for the serve, was trying to change it a little bit. So, yeah.”

Rybakina continues her success over Swiatek, having now won 4 of her last 5 encounters against the 22-year old Pole.

“I think it’s just style of the game. Iga, she moves really well, and she likes to dominate in the rally. With me, it’s difficult because I play fast, I play flatter, and also like to move the opponent,” Rybakina explained.

“So it’s, kind of, I think, match-up where we are both pushing each other, both trying to dominate in the point.

“So I think, of course, also my serve helps a lot. That’s why some matches I win; some matches I lose. But it’s always tough for her to play against me, and for me to play against her.”

For Swiatek, she is left searching for answers.

“She played better than me, obviously. It’s hard right now for me to analyse what specifically was better,” Swiatek told the press. “For sure she served better. I didn’t serve well in the third set.

“So that’s a shame, but at least I know what I can work on, and be focused on that,” she added. “I mean, I’m always trying to find solutions. I’m not, kind of, giving up. But still, it wasn’t enough to win the whole match.

“So, for sure, it’s a positive thing that I was able to win the second set, but, you know, I’ll work hard to be able to win these kind of matches anyway.”

Marta Kostyuk upset 6th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets to reach the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix final

© Thomas Kienzle/AFP via Getty Images

In the second semi, unseeded Kostyuk overcame 5th-seeded Marketa Vondrousova in straight sets, having raced out to a 5-1 lead in the opener before the left-handed Czech fought back to force a tiebreak.

The Ukrainian regained her composure to dominate the breaker, and when she again took a 5-1 lead in the second, this time there was no way back for the 2023 Wimbledon champion.

Rybakina will be contesting her 5th final of the year, having won the Brisbane International and the Abu Dhabi Open, while she was the runner-up at the Miami and Qatar Opens.

Kostyuk, who lost to Swiatek at the semi-final stage of Indian Wells, reached the final of the San Diego Open in March.

Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova could not get past Marta Kostyuk in the semi-final on Saturday

© Alex Grimm/Getty Images

The winner of Sunday’s final will receive a £162k Porsche Taycan 4S Sport Turismo electric car car, along with the prize money, but, for Rybakina, this may create a problem.

During her post-match on-court interview, she was asked if she drives as fast as she hits the ball on the court.

“Well guys, I actually don’t have [a] driver’s license,” Rybakina replied with a smile. “So it’s gonna be the goal, of course. I mean, I want [it] already for a long time, so that’s a good motivation.

“I have already had a couple of lessons. I was driving, but yeah, for sure that’s the goal for this year outside of the court, and, with this car, if I win, it’s going to be one double goal. Hopefully, I finish it this year.”

Kostyuk, after her win, was quick to point out that she does have a license, which is to her advantage.

Elena Rybakina's serve and power proved too tricky for Iga Swiatek, and the world No 4 goes into the final as favourite for the title

© Alex Grimm/Getty Images

On her way to the Stuttgart Open final, Kostyuk defeated 3 Top 10 players on the trot, overcoming World No 7 Zheng Qinwen in the 2nd-round, World No 3 Coco Gauff in the quarter-finals, and the World No 8, Vondrousova, in the semi-finals.

“I mean, I don’t think a lot of people know, but I started my career love-14 [0-14] against the top ten players, and I’m really trying to, you know, catch up with the number,” Kostyuk told the media. “I mean, I had some [good wins] before, but yeah, this is really amazing, and, you know, these are some of the best players in the world in the last year.

“It was incredible to beat all of them in a row, and yeah, I mean, hoping for a Grand Slam too for myself one day,” she added.

Kostyuk and Rybakina have competed against each other twice on the WTA Tour, resulting in a tied head-to-head record of 1-1, with both of their encounters taking place in 2023.

Their first match was at the Adelaide International 1, where Kostyuk emerged victorious with a score of 6-7(5) 6-2 6-3, while their second match was in the 1st-round of the US Open, where Rybakina defeated the Ukrainian, 6-2 6-1.



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