After the biggest triumph of her young career, Sofia Kenin returns to the WTA Tour at the Dubai Tennis Championships today in a match that has all the ingredients to be a blockbuster. The Australian Open champion faces the fast-rising Elena Rybakina in a showdown between two of the WTA Tour's most talented young stars.
Just 12 ranking spots separate seventh-ranked Kenin and 19th-ranked Rybakina, and that further validates how close a battle this could turn out to be. The American is, of course, the favourite, having collected a major title at the age of 21. However, the Russian-born Kazakh has simply left an indelible mark with a thunderous start to the 2020 season and is looking to break into the top 10 very soon.
In four tournaments this year, the 20-year-old Rybakina has made it to three finals, with the only exception being the Australian Open, where she bowed out in the third round to World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty. She started the season by reaching the final at Shenzen in a sizzling run that saw her beat the likes of World No. 17 Elise Mertens. Rybakina quickly rebounded from that loss to take the title at Hobart and once again reached the summit clash at St. Petersburg last week, losing to Kiki Bertens.
If anything, the impressive performances have underlined her consistency and her fearlessness against the very best in the world. If fatigue doesn't creep in, Rybakina could even pull off an upset over Kenin. That said, it would take lots of courage and mental fortitude to accomplish that. The kind of self-belief Kenin exhibited in tough encounters with Cori Gauff, Barty and finally Garbine Muguruza in the title clash in Melbourne was admirable and it would be an uphill task to make a dent in her confidence level.
Here's all you need to know about Dubai Tennis Championships 2020 Schedule:
Tournament: Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championships
Category: WTA Premier
City: Dubai, UAE
Venue: Aviation Club Tennis Centre
Prize money: $2,908,770
Match schedule: (5) Sofia Kenin (USA) vs (SE) Elena Rybakina (KAZ) first-round not before 8:30 pm IST on February 18, 2020
Live Telecast: There will be no live telecast in India
Live Scores: Click here
Head-to-head: First meeting