Rybakina rises to second WTA title in 2024

TOP FIVE talent Elena Rybakina won her second WTA Tour title in four tournaments, putting aside her Australian Open disappointment to take out the 2024 Abu Dhabi Open overnight. The world number five looked far too strong against fellow Russian-born seed Daria Kasatkina, as the 2022 Wimbledon champion won 6-1 6-4 against the world number 14.

Rybakina secured her first title in Brisbane this year, stunning world number two Aryna Sabalenka 6-0 6-3 in comprehensive style which to-date has been the only loss for the 2024 Australian Open champion. Since starting the season 6-0, Rybakina suffered back-to-back second round losses in both Adelaide and Melbourne Park, failing to defender her WTA Tour points at the the Australian Open after an epic 22-20 deciding tiebreaker loss to Anna Blinkova.

Heading to Abu Dhabi – in what would be Rybakina’s only second tournament as top seed after Adelaide this year – the Kazakstan talent bounced back from dropping the first set against American qualifier Danielle Collins to win eight of the next nine and secure the WTA 500 title.

“I was coming to this week without expectations because I had some issues in Melbourne, so we needed some time to get back on court,” Rybakina said post-match. “I was just trying to get as many matches as I can. Really proud about this week. With every match I felt more confident.”

Against Kasatkina in the final, Rybakina produced an 86 per cent serving efficient and won 15 of 22 points off her serve, while Kasatkina looked down on her level throughout the tournament. She won just one game – off Rybakina’s serve – was broken all three times, and only managed to win five points off her serve in total in a one-sided first set.

After the opening set lasted just 25 minutes, Kasatkina stepped it up in the second, and kept in touch with the top seed to be 4-4, with both players having broken twice, while also holding serve twice. The Russian served at a far more fluent 76 per cent, but only winning 52 per cent of her first serve points hurt.

By comparison, Rybakina won 67 per cent of her first serve points off an identical clip, and broke a third time in the ninth game to then serve out the win, 6-1 6-4 in an hour and eight minutes. The Kazakhstani produced 17 winners to just 12 unforced errors, while Kasatkina finished with 14 winners and 27 unforced errors – 16 of which came in the second set and nine were double faults – in the final.

“Really happy with this week and the way I played throughout the week,” Rybakina said. “It was great tennis I think I showed. In the final, I was really focused from the beginning to the end. I’m very proud.”

Rybakina moved up one spot into fourth in the world with the title, while Kasatkina also achieved the same boost, now into 13th on the WTA Tour.

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