Elina Svitolina vs. Elena Rybakina, Strasbourg Final Preview

??? Internationaux de Strasbourg – FINAL preview + prediction
?? (2) Elina Svitolina vs. ?? (5) Elena Rybakina

Elina Svitolina and Elena Rybakina will go head-to-head for the first time when they meet in Saturday’s championship match at the Internationaux de Strasbourg. Svitolina will be playing for her 15th WTA singles title, her second of 2020, whilst Rybakina will also be playing for her second title of the season and third overall.

It has been an important week for both Svitolina and Rybakina, both were in good form before the tour shutdown, but both had previously struggled to recapture that form prior to Strasbourg. Rybakina is yet to drop a set this week, storming into her fifth final of the season, whilst Svitolina has beaten 3 tricky opponents to reach her second final of the season.

Pathway to the championship match: (Svitolina)

R1: bye
R2: def. Magda Linette 7-6 7-5
QF: def. Jill Teichmann 6-4 6-3
SF: def. (4) Aryna Sabalenka 6-2 4-6 6-4

Pathway to the championship match: (Rybakina)

R1: def. Greet Minnen 7-5 6-4
R2: def. Alize Cornet 6-3 7-6
QF: def. Shuai Zhang 6-3 6-2
SF: def. Nao Hibino 6-3 6-4

It will be interesting to see how this match-up pans out in the first meeting between the pair. I’m going to side with Svitolina here. Firstly, I believe the surface suits Svitolina in this match-up, Svitolina will have more time to handle the power of Rybakina and get herself into more extended rallies where she should have the edge. Svitolina has the greater stamina and mental strength under pressure. Secondly, I suspect Svitolina will handle the occasion better, Svitolina knows how to get the job done in finals, the same hasn’t been true of Rybakina who has lost 3 of 4 finals this year. Svitolina has also had the tougher draw and will benefit from playing and defeating Aryna Sabalenka in the previous round, a similar type of opponent to Rybakina. The world number 5 should be too solid.

Prediction: Elina Svitolina to defeat Elena Rybakina in 2 sets

Elena Rybakina vs. Nao Hibino, Strasbourg SF Preview

??? Internationaux de Strasbourg – SF #1 preview + prediction
?? (5) Elena Rybakina vs. ?? Nao Hibino

Elena Rybakina will be aiming to reach her 5th final of the season when she comes up against Nao Hibino in Friday’s first semi-final at the Internationaux de Strasbourg. Conversely Hibino will be aiming to reach her first final of the year, her first final since Hiroshima late last year and her first ever tour level final on a clay court. Rybakina comes into this match as a strong favourite, but Hibino has defied the odds all week, can she do it again?

Elena Rybakina has stormed into the final 4 in Strasbourg without dropping a set. The 5th seed has claimed straight set wins over Greet Minnen, Alize Cornet and Shuai Zhang. Rybakina has won all 4 of her previous semi-finals in 2020, can she make it 5 from 5?

Nao Hibino is having her greatest week on clay court. The Japanese player stared the week with an upset 3 set victory over the 8th seeded Sloane Stephens before claiming a pair of straight set wins over Zarina Diyas and Jelena Ostapenko.

The only previous meeting between the pair tool place at the final qualifying stage of Roland Garros last year, Rybakina won that match 7-5 7-5. Rybakina has improved dramatically since then, now an established top 20 player and still on the rise.

I suspect this will be a closer match than expected. Rybakina should win, but Hibino won’t be a pushover. Rybakina has the stronger game, especially behind her serve, but Hibino can match Rybakina from the baseline where she has looked very strong all week, if the Japanese player can get into enough neutral rallies, she has a decent chance in matchup where there is nothing to lose, I’ll go for the upset.

Prediction: Nao Hibino to defeat Elena Rybakina in 3 sets

Elena Rybakina vs. Shuai Zhang, Strasbourg QF Preview

??? Internationaux de Strasbourg – QF preview + prediction
?? (5) Elena Rybakina vs. ?? (Q) Shuai Zhang

Elena Rybakina has been one of the most improved players on tour in 2020. The Kazakh continues her Strasbourg campaign on Thursday with a quarter-final clash against Chinese qualifier Shuai Zhang.

The 5th seeded Elena Rybakina is yet to drop a set this week. Rybakina started the week with a 7-5 6-4 win over Greet Minnen before battling past former champion Alize Cornet 6-3 7-6. Rybakina has a 26/7 win/loss record in 2020 but is still yet to consistently find here stunning early season form this the tour restart.

Shuai Zhang arrived in Strasbourg on a 5-match losing streak. Zhang snapped her losing run in the qualifying round where she defeated Storm Sanders 7-6 3-6 6-0. Zhang moved through the first round of the main draw with a hard-fought 3-6 6-4 6-2 win over Ajla Tomljanovic before beating local wild card Clara Burel 6-3 7-6.

Rybakina defeated Zhang 7-6 6-3 in the Hobart International final earlier this year in what was their only previous meeting.

Rybakina enters this match as a big favourite but this should be closer than expected. Rybakina looked shaky in the previous round against Cornet where she really struggled to close out the match. Zhang is a solid opponent and has the type of game to make life difficult for the big hitting Rybakina. I’ll give Rybakina the benefit of the doubt, she has the extra firepower and the far greater results this year.

Prediction: Elena Rybakina to defeat Shuai Zhang in 3 sets

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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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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