Rybakina and Swiatek set up blockbuster Qatar final

GRAND Slam champions Elena Rybakina and Iga Swiatek will face off in the WTA 1000 Qatar Open final tomorrow after the in-form pair moved through to the decider in very different ways. Rybakina overcame Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2 6-4 to reach the final, while Swiatek had a far easy route, receiving a walkover in the semi-final after Karolina Pliskova pulled out.

Pliskova withdrew from her semi-final with the number one seed citing a lower back injury, which has stemmed from nine matches in 10 days for the Czech talent who is coming off a title at the Transylvania Open, her first trophy since 2020.

“Sorry for the tournament that I had to withdraw, but unfortunately I had too many matches in last couple of days, and my body just didn’t react well, especially after last night having a tough match against Naomi,” Pliskova said.

“I felt like I was pushing it a little bit over limit, and then I felt very big pain in my lower back, so I’m not able to compete anymore.”

The win enabled Swiatek – who holds a 3-0 record over the Czech and now two walkovers as well – to have an extra day’s rest before facing Wimbledon champion Rybakina. The Pole exited the Australian Open earlier than expected, bowing out in the third round, but has strung together three one-sided beltings in Qatar thus far.

On the other hand, Rybakina fought past Pavlyuchenkova in the semi-final to win in straight sets, backing up her impressive victory over Canadian Leylah Fernandez in the quarter finals. Against Pavlyuchenkova, Rybakina won 68 and 57 per cent of her first and second serve points, while breaking four times from six chances.

Pavlyuchenkova managed to break Rybakina once but could not capitalise on her eight other chances. It allowed the third seeded Kazakh to strike and moved to an impressive 2024 record of 15-2, and a chance to extend her current 3-1 head-to-head record over Swiatek.

“I think we both know each other pretty well, and of course we trying to study and analyse,” Rybakina said. “For now it was going my way, but as I said, she’s playing really good. I think she’s a little bit fresher than me, that’s for sure, but for me it was already a very positive two weeks, so I try to push myself tomorrow and see how it’s gonna go. 

“For me the most important is try to recover physically, because with Iga, it’s a lot about the physics, of course. She’s making you work for every point, and of course I need to stay aggressive and play my game, but we see what can I do tomorrow.”

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