Simona Halep vs. Elena Rybakina, Dubai Final Preview

?? Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, Final Preview
?? (1) Simona Halep vs. ?? Elena Rybakina

The final of the 2020 Dubai Duty Free Tennis championships promises to be an exciting one when the top seeded Simona Halep takes on a red-hot Elena Rybakina. Halep will enter this match as the favourite but is unlikely to have things all her own way against a player that has already won 19 matches in 2020. Will Halep win her first tile since capturing her second major at Wimbledon last year?

Simona Halep made a shaky start to her 2020 Dubai campaign but has improved her level in every single match. The reigning Wimbledon champion made an especially slow start in her opening round match against Ons Jabeur but rallied to save match point on route to a 1-6 6-2 7-6 win. The top seed was again forced to come from behind in the quarter-finals where she avenged her loss to Aryna Sabalenka in Adelaide with a 3-6 6-2 6-2 win. Halep produced her most commanding performance at the semi-final stage with a dominant 6-2 6-0 win over an in-form Jennifer Brady.

Elena Rybakina is through to her fourth final of 2020, more than anyone else on tour. This is the second time Rybakina has reached back-to-back finals in 2020, the first time she was able to win the title in her second final, can she do it again in Dubai? Rybakina has been in fine form this week, the Kazakh started the week with a 3 set win over the 5th seeded Sofia Kenin before cruising past Katerina Siniakova in straight sets. Rybakina made another big move in the quarter-finals where she upset the second seeded Karolina Pliskova 7-6 6-3 before booking her spot in the championship match with a hard-fought 7-6 7-6 win over Petra Martic, Rybakina fought from a break down in each set in her win over Martic.

I’m going to side with Halep here. Rybakina is yet to consistently prove herself against top level counter-punchers. This is arguably Rybakina’s biggest test of the year thus far, I think it will to be a troublesome match-up for the 20-year-old. Halep is getting stronger and stronger and seemingly enters this final in perfect shape. Rybakina has played a heap of tennis over the last few weeks which is a concern coming up against one of the most physical opponents on tour. The relentless pressure from Halep thanks to her consistency and stamina will be too much for Rybakina to handle.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Elena Rybakina in 2 sets
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Petra Martic vs. Elena Rybakina, Dubai SF Preview

?? Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, SF Preview
?? (8) Petra Martic vs. ?? Elena Rybakina

The 8th seeded Petra Martic comes up against a red-hot Elena Rybakina in Friday’s first semi-final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships. Martic arrived in Dubai in poor form but has flipped the script to reach her first semi-final since Zhengzhou in September last year. Conversely, Rybakina arrived in Dubai in awesome form having just reached the St. Petersburg final, the Kazakh is showing no signs of letting up and is now into her fourth semi-final of the year.

Petra Martic is the only player to reach the semi-final stage in Dubai without dropping a set. Martic started the event with a 6-4 6-3 win over lucky-loser Su-Wei Hsieh before cruising past Barbora Strycova 6-3 6-3. Martic secured her spot in the semi-finals with a 7-6 6-1 win over Anett Kontaveit. This has been an important week for Martic given her slow start to the season, something to build on.

Elena Rybakina is arguably the form player on the WTA tour. Rybakina has amassed an 18-3 win/loss record in 2020. The 20-year-old won her maiden title on the WTA tour in Hobart last month and has also made finals in Shenzhen and St. Petersburg. Rybakina started her Dubai campaign with a 6-7 6-3 6-3 win over reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin. Rybakina eased past Katerina Siniakova 6-3 6-3 in the second round before booking her spot in the final 4 with a 7-6 6-3 win over the second seeded Karolina Pliskova.

This will be the first career meeting between Martic and Rybakina.

Form says Rybakina will win this, but I’m going to give the slight edge to Martic. I think this could be a troublesome match-up for Rybakina based on a couple of her losses this year. Rybakina was easily beaten by Ash Barty and Kiki Bertens over the last month, Martic posses a similar threat with her versatile game, notably her backhand slice, drop shots, and touch at the net. Rybakina has played a lot of tennis lately and may not have enough left in the tank to get the better of a tricky opponent.

Prediction: Petra Martic to defeat Elena Rybakina in 3 sets
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Simona Halep vs. Jennifer Brady, Dubai SF Preview

?? Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, SF Preview
?? (1) Simon Halep vs. ?? (Q) Jennifer Brady

Simona Halep continues her quest for a second Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title when she comes up against Jennifer Brady in Friday’s second semi-final. Halep and Brady have both come through some extremely tight matches to get through to the final 4 in Dubai, both have been forced to fight from a set down in their two previous matches. Halep defeated Brady earlier this year in Melbourne, can the Romanian repeat that result in Dubai?

Simona Halep is building into some top form in Dubai. Halep came through a big scare in her opening round match where she saved a match point in a dramatic final set tiebreak to defeat Ons Jabeur 1-6 6-2 7-6. Halep was again overpowered in the early exchanges of her quarter-final clash with Aryna Sabalenka but raised her level to claim an important 3-6 6-2 6-2 victory. Halep was striking the ball fantastically in the final set against Sabalenka, if she can continue that form she will win the title this week.

Jennifer Brady is into her first semi-final at a premier level event. Brady has done it the hard way having come through qualifying. Brady eased through the qualifying draw without dropping a set with wins over Kristyna Pliskova, Gabriela Dabrowski and Su-Wei Hsieh, before starting her main draw campaign with a 6-2 6-1 thrashing of the third seeded Elina Svitolina. Brady made a great escape in her second round match, coming from a set and 1-4 down to defeat Marketa Vondrousova. The American continued to ride her luck in the quarter-finals, where she against fought from behind to defeat Garbine Muguruza 6-7 6-3 6-4.

Halep has won both of her previous matches against Brady. Halep needed 3 tight sets to get past the American when they first squared off last year at the Rogers Cup, a 4-6 7-5 7-6 win for Halep on that occasion. More recently Halep claimed a 7-6 6-1 victory over Brady at the opening round stage of the Australian Open last month.

I’m going to confidently side with Halep here. Halep was able to beat Brady in straight sets at the Australian Open despite most factors favouring Brady heading into that match. On that occasion it was Brady who was in better form and had a better rhythm coming into the match. Halep still overcame a slow start in Melbourne to win that match. On this occasion, Halep has her rhythm having coming through some tough battles over the last few days. Conversely, Brady is surely going to be fatigued having already played 6 matches this week. Halep loves playing in Dubai where the courts suit her and the crowd loves her. Halep will make this a physical battle where she will be too strong.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Jennifer Brady in 2 sets
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Simona Halep vs. Aryna Sabalenka, Dubai QF Preview

?? Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, QF Preview
?? (1) Simona Halep vs. ?? (7) Aryna Sabalenka

A blockbuster quarter-final clash at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday evening is set, the top seeded Simona Halep will come up against the always-dangerous Aryna Sabalenka. This is a big test for Halep, the Romanian only just scrapped through her opening round match in Dubai against Ons Jabeur and was beaten by Sabalenka in straight sets in Adelaide earlier this year. Can Halep get revenge in Dubai?

Simona Halep made a slow start to her 2020 Dubai campaign but came through with a typically gutsy win. The 2015 champion received a bye through the opening round before facing an in-form Ons Jabeur. Halep was dominated in the early exchanges by Jabeur but rallied to claim a 1-6 6-2 7-6 victory, saving a match point in a dramatic final set tiebreak. Halep is still aiming for her first title since Wimbledon last year, perhaps this is the week she will end her run without a title.

Aryna Sabalenka is having a good week in Dubai. Sabalenka arrived in Dubai in desperate need of some victories after a first round exit in Melbourne, that’s exactly what she has got. The 7th seed started her campaign with a hard-fought 6-2 4-6 6-1 win over Maria Sakkari. The Belarussian booked her spot in the final 8 with a commanding 6-4 6-3 win over Elise Mertens. Sabalenka will look to keep the momentum going with another big win over Halep.

Halep holds a 2-1 head-to-head record over Sabalenka. It was Halep who won the first couple of meetings between the pair, both in 2018, both in straight sets and both on a hard court. Most recently, it was Sabalenka who claimed a dominant 6-4 6-2 victory over Halep at the quarter-final stage of the Adelaide International in January.

I’m going to side with Halep here. Usually this is a match-up that favours Halep and expect that to be the case here. Halep is always better positioned at a tournament when she is able to come through a tough opening round match, that is exactly what happened at this event after her epic win over Jabeur. The consistency, anticipation and defensive skills of Halep make life tough for Sabalenka. A motivated Halep will have revenge on her mind heading into this one after what happened in Adelaide earlier this year, the top seed will get that revenge.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Aryna Sabalenka in 2 sets
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Simona Halep vs. Ons Jabeur, Dubai R2 Preview

?? Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R2 Preview
?? (1) Simona Halep vs. ?? (wc) Ons Jabeur

The top seeded Simona Halep begins her 2020 Dubai campaign on Wednesday against Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur. Halep won the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in 2015 and will be hoping to replicate that result 5 years later. The Romanian received a bye through the opening round whilst Jabeur came through a tough test against Alison Riske in 3 sets. Will Halep make a positive start to her 2020 Dubai campaign?

Simona Halep made a great start to the season in Australian. The reigning Wimbledon champion reached the semi-finals at the Australian Open and will look to build on that momentum during the Middle Eastern swing. Halep usually performs well at this time of the year having captured the title in both Dubai and Doha, the conditions certainly favour the Romanian.

Ons Jabeur has also made a very bright start to the season. Jabeur made her first Grand Slam quarter-final at the Australian Open and is arguably playing the best tennis of her career at the moment. Jabeur advanced to the second round in Dubai thanks to a hard-fought 7-6 1-6 6-3 win over Alison Riske, another encouraging with for the Tunisian.

I’m going to give Halep the benefit of the doubt here. Halep hasn’t played a singles match for a couple of weeks and was comfortably defeated in the opening round of the doubles event in Dubai, it is understandable if the Romanian is rusty here. Jabeur is confident and has nothing to lose, the Tunisian isn’t easy to play against and will probably trouble Halep at times. Nevertheless, the consistency and stamina of Halep should eventually prove too much for Jabeur to handle, especially in the critical moments.

Prediction: Simona Halep to defeat Ons Jabeur in 3 sets
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Sofia Kenin vs. Elena Rybakina, Dubai R1 Preview

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R1 Preview
?? (5) Sofia Kenin vs. ?? Elena Rybakina

A blockbuster opening round match-up at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday sees reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin come up against a red-hot Elena Rybakina. Kenin and Rybakina are arguably the two form players on tour over the first month and a half of 2020. It will be interesting to see how this match-up pans out in the first career meeting between the pair.

The fifth seeded Sofia Kenin will be making her first appearance at a regular WTA event for the first time since winning her maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open last month. In the meantime, Kenin did compete in the USA’s 3-2 Fed Cup victory over Latvia last week where she defeated Anastasija Sevastova in straight sets before succumbing to Jelena Ostapenko in 3 sets. Kenin paired up with Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the decisive doubles rubber to guide the USA to victory. Can Kenin continue her rise in Dubai?

Elena Rybakina has already made 3 finals in 2020. Rybakina made back-to-back finals to start the year, Rybakina was runner-up in Shenzhen before winning her first WTA title in Hobart. Rybakina’s run came to an end at the Australian Open where she was beaten by the top seeded Ash Barty in the third round. The 20-year-old arrived in Dubai fresh from a runner-up showing in St. Petersburg where she was comfortably defeated by Kiki Bertens in straight sets. Rybakina now has a 15-3 win/loss record in 2020.

I’m going to side with Kenin here. Firstly, Rybakina only has a day to prepare for this match, having just competed in the St. Petersburg final on Sunday, that’s a short turnaround. Secondly, I think this match-up will favour Kenin. The American has the relentless consistency and versatility to disrupt the powerful game of Rybakina.

Prediction: Sofia Kenin to defeat Elena Rybakina in 2 sets
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Belinda Bencic vs. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Dubai R1 Preview

Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R1 Preview
?? (4) Belinda Bencic vs. ?? Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova

The fourth seeded Belinda Bencic begins her 2020 Dubai campaign on Tuesday with a tough opening round match-up against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Bencic, the defending champion in Dubai, has dominated this match-up in the past, but it is Pavlyuchenkova who enters this match with the better form having reached the Australian Open quarter-finals just a few weeks ago.

Belinda Bencic has made an average start to her 2020 campaign but enters Dubai at a career high ranking of 4 in the world. Bencic arrives in Dubai on the back of a disappointing second round loss to Maria Sakkari at the quarter-final stage in St. Petersburg. Bencic has a modest 5-4 win/loss record in 2020 and is under pressure this week as the defending champion.

Pavlyuchenkova has made a strong start to the 2020 season thanks to reaching the final 8 at the Australian Open for the second year in a row. In 2019 Pavlyuchenkova was unable to build on her strong start to the year, the Russian will be hoping to avoid a similar fate in 2020, starting with a good run in Dubai.

Bencic holds a commanding 5-1 head-to-head record over Pavlyuchenkova. Bencic has won the last 4 matches between the pair, including a 3-6 6-1 6-1 victory in the Moscow final last year. Interestingly it was Pavlyuchenkova who won their only previous match on an outdoor hard court, a 6-2 6-4 win in Washington back in 2015.

I’m going to side with Pavlyuchenkova here. Bencic has consistently played average tennis in 2020 and seems to be lacking confidence at the moment. Conversely, Pavlyuchenkova enters this match rested after a great run in Melbourne. The pressure is on Bencic here given her strong record over Pavlyuchenkova and given she is the defending champion this week. The scene is set for Pavlyuchenkova to overpower Bencic.

Prediction: Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Belinda Bencic in 3 sets
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Aryna Sabalenka vs. Maria Sakkari, Dubai R1 Preview

?? Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, R1 Preview
?? (7) Aryna Sabalenka vs. ?? Maria Sakkari

Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari will renew hostilities when they go head-to-head at the opening round stage at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Tuesday. Sabalenka has made a modest start to the season whilst Sakkari is building in confidence after a couple of successful tournaments. Except a very competitive contest here with the head-to-head record between the pair split at 1-1.

Sabalenka will be back in action for the first time since a disappointing opening round exit at the Australian Open. Sabalenka was in good shape heading into Melbourne after reaching the semi-finals in Adelaide. However, things quickly unravelled in Melbourne where the Belarusian was beaten by Carla Suarez Navarro in a couple of tight sets. It will be interesting to see what type of level Sabalenka can bring in her Dubai opener given she hasn’t played in almost a month.

Maria Sakkari arrives in Dubai in good form. Sakkari arrives fresh from a semi-final showing in St. Petersburg where she upset the top seeded Belinda Bencic in the quarter-finals before succumbing to Elena Rybakina in 3 sets. Prior to St. Petersburg, Sakkari reached the fourth round in Melbourne, her best run at a major.

Sabalenka and Sakkari have split their two previous meetings with a win apiece, both in 2019. It was Sakkari who emerged victorious in their first contest, a 6-7 6-4 6-4 victory in Cincinnati. Most recently, Sabalenka claimed a 6-3 6-4 win in Zhuhai.

I’m going to side with Sakkari here. It is Sakkari is match-hardened heading into this contest having just reached the semi-finals in St. Petersburg. Conversely, Sabalenka hasn’t played a singles match for a month, that has to give the edge to the Green number 1. Furthermore, I think this is a troublesome match-up for Sabalenka, especially when she isn’t at her best, which is likely to be the case here. Sakkari will apply relentless pressure to Sabalenka, forcing the Belarusian into extended rallies where Sabalenka is likely to buckle under the pressure.

Prediction: Maria Sakkari to defeat Aryna Sabalenka in 3 sets
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Elina Svitolina vs Daria Kasatkina, Dubai Final Preview

?? Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, ? Final Preview
?? (1) Elina Svitolina vs ?? Daria Kasatkina

Elina Svitolina is just 1 step away from successfully defending her title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships and claiming her second title of the season. Standing in Svitolina’s way is an in-form Daria Kasatkina, the Russian heads into Saturday’s final in Dubai fresh off an epic, confidence boosting 3 set victory over Garbine Muguruza. Svitolina has an outstanding record in finals having won her last 6 finals, the Ukrainian holds an overall 10/2 record in championship matches. Can Svitolina build of her impressive record in finals on Saturday in Dubai?

Daria Kasatkina of Russia in action during the semi-final of the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships WTA Premier tennis tournament

Svitolina has been typically consistent in 2018, the world number 6 has amassed a 13/2 win/loss record. Svitolina won more titles than any other player in 2017 and is now one step away from winning a second title in 2018 having started the year winning the Brisbane International title. It has been a decent week for Svitolina, the top seed has improved her level progressively as her opponents became tougher. The 23-year-old started the week with a scrappy 3 set win over Qiang Wang before navigating her way past the threat of Naomi Osaka in straight sets. Svitolina confirmed her spot in Saturday’s final with a surprisingly comfortable 6-3 6-3 win over Angelique Kerber.

Daria Kasatkina is having an epic week in Dubai. The Russian has saved multiple match points on two occasions on route to the final, claiming epic wins over Johanna Konta and Garbine Muguruza. On both occasions where Kasatkina saved match points she also came from a set and a break down, her opponent served for the match on each occasion before Kasatkina won a second set tiebreak and run away with the match in the third set. Kasatkina has also claimed straight set wins over Agnieszka Radwanska and Elena Vesnina this week.

Svitolina has won both of the previous matches between the pair, neither have been easy victories. A 6-4 5-7 6-0 win in New Haven in 2016 and more recently a 7-6 6-4 win at the Rogers Cup last year. Svitolina and Kasatkina are two of the quickest players on tour, two of the best defenders, expect to see a tight final in Dubai, featuring a lot of long rallies.

Elina Svitolina vs Angelique Kerber, Dubai SF Preview

?? Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, SF Preview
?? (1) Elina Svitolina vs ?? (6) Angelique Kerber

A blockbuster semi-final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships sees the top seed and defending champion: Elina Svitolina, take on the in-form player on the tour right now: Angelique Kerber. This will be the second time in as many years these two have gone head-to-head at the semi-final stage in Dubai. This has been a very successful match-up for Svitolina in recent times, the Ukrainian has won the last 4 matches between the pair, 3 of those victories were in straight sets. Nevertheless, it is Kerber who has been more impressive in 2018, can the resurgent German avenge her recent defeats at the hands of Svitolina?

Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine in action at the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships WTA Premier tennis tournament

Whilst Svitolina has not necessarily been at her best in 2018, she still has a very positive 12/2 win/loss record thus far. Svitolina started her title defense in Dubai with a scrappy 3 set victory over Qiang Wang after receiving a bye through the opening round. The top seed confirmed her spot in the semi-finals by navigating her way past the dangerous Naomi Osaka 6-2 6-4. Svitolina’s consistency was too much for a wayward Osaka to handle, Svitolina will face a much tougher test in the next round as she takes on a red-hot Angelique Kerber, the German will not give Svitolina gifts like Osaka did in the previous round.

Angelique Kerber has won more matches than any other player in 2018, amassing a very impressive 19/2 win/loss record. Kerber has breezed through to the semi-finals in Dubai without dropping a set, claiming victories over Barbora Strycova, Sara Errani and Karolina Pliskova. Kerber confirmed her spot in the semi-finals with a 6-4 6-3 demolition of Karolina Pliskova. It was a near-flawless performance by Kerber who did not face 1 break point all match.

It is Svitolina who heads into this match with a 6-5 head-to-head record over the German. Svitolina has won the last 4 matches between the two and 6 of the last 9. The pair met on 3 occasions last year, Svitolina beat Kerber in 3 sets in Brisbane, straight sets in Dubai and 6-4 6-2 on clay in a Fed Cup tie in what was their most recent encounter.

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