Fixture: (4) Aryna Sabalenka vs (6) Elena Rybakina
Date: 11 January 2021
Tournament: Abu Dhabi WTA Women's Tennis Open 2021
Venue: Abu Dhabi, UAE
Category: WTA 500
Surface: Outdoor hardcourt
Prize money: $565,530
Live telecast: USA - ESPN / Tennis Channel
Aryna Sabalenka vs Elena Rybakina preview
Aryna Sabalenka continues to look unstoppable, and she now has her sights set on a semifinal berth at the Abu Dhabi Open. The fourth seed will take on the sixth-seeded Elena Rybakina in a potentially entertaining last-eight clash on Monday.
Ons Jabeur was expected to cause some trouble for Sabalenka in the Round of 16, especially considering she had beaten the Belarusian before. But Sabalenka was ready for the challenge.
The first set was a vintage performance from the World No. 10, where she didn't even face a break point. The second set was more competitive, as Jabeur was able to break the Sabalenka serve twice. But the Ostrava and Linza champion was able to lift her level each time, and she eventually wrapped up the 6-2, 6-4 win in 1 hour 7 minutes.
With three victories so far on the fast courts of Abu Dhabi, Aryna Sabalenka's winning streak has now extended to 12 matches.
World No. 19 Elena Rybakina had a breakout 2020, where she racked up 29 wins in 39 matches. The 21-year-old reached five finals last year, winning one (at Hobart), and she has managed to bring that form into the first tournament of the new season.
Rybakina has cruised through each of her matches so far, conceding no more than eight games in each match. Former World No. 10 Daria Kasatkina was expected to pose a threat to Rybakina in the third round, but the Kazakh quickly subdued her with a routine 6-3, 6-4 win.
Kasatkina was able to penetrate the solid Rybakina serve just once in the whole match. The 21-year-old managed to win 76.7% of her first-serve points and 78.9% of her second-serve points, which should give her immense confidence ahead of a clash with the dangerous Sabalenka.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Elena Rybakina head-to-head
Aryna Sabalenka leads Elena Rybakina 1-0 in their head-to-head record, having won their solitary meeting at Wuhan in 2019. The Belarusian dropped the middle set to the young Kazakh in that match, but rebounded to take the 6-3, 1-6, 6-1 win on her way to the semifinals.
Aryna Sabalenka vs Elena Rybakina prediction
This has all the makings of an electrifying face-off between two big hitters. Both Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina like to hit flat and go for their shots, although Sabalenka has a slight edge in the power department.
Rybakina has put up encouraging statistics so far in her Abu Dhabi campaign. She has notched up 12 aces, won nearly 80% of her first-serve points, and dropped her serve only twice. The Kazakh is clearly playing with a lot of conviction, and she seems keen to continue her impressive run from last season.
Against such a solid opponent, Sabalenka cannot afford to make any mistakes in the initial stages of the match. In that context the Belarusian will look to draw inspiration from her first-set performance against Jabeur, and strike some early blows.
This match has the potential to go the distance, but Sabalenka will likely come through given her imperious form of late.
Prediction: Aryna Sabalenka to win in three sets.Published 10 Jan 2021, 20:53 IST