Sunday, February 25, 2024

Rybakina wins Abu Dhabi to capture second title of the season

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World No.5 Elena Rybakina captured her second title of the season after easing past No.14 Daria Kasatkina 6-1, 6-4 in the final of the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open on Sunday. Abu Dhabi is Rybakina’s seventh career title on the Hologic WTA Tour and fourth on a hard court. 

Seeded No.1 at a tournament for the second time in her career, Rybakina enjoyed a winning week in Abu Dhabi, which included wins over Danielle Collins, Cristina Bucsa and No.8 seed Liudmila Samsonova. 

Rybakina moved to 11-2 on the season, having won her first title of the year in Brisbane last month. She is tied with Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka for the second-most wins on tour behind Jelena Ostapenko’s tour-leading 13 wins.

Despite Sunday’s loss, Kasatkina has engineered a strong start to the season. Abu Dhabi was her second final of the nascent season. She made her first in Adelaide in January. With a 9-4 record, Kasatkina ranks No.6 on the tour in match wins this year.

Both players will immediately head to Doha for the first WTA 1000 tournament of the season at the Qatar TotalEnergies Open. While Rybakina has a bye into the second round, Kasatkina is scheduled to play her first-round match against Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova on Monday evening. 

Rybakina raced through the opening set quickly, aided in part by Kasatkina’s 16 unforced errors. Kasatkina, 26, was coming off a three-hour effort to get past Beatriz Haddad Maia in the semifinals. But with Rybakina landing 86 percent of her first serves, Kasatkina could find no inroads in the 25-minute set.

In the second set, Kasatkina smartly threw caution to the win and amped her baseline aggression. After striking just two winners in the first set, Kasatkina grew more opportunistic in the second set and reeled in Rybakina to level at 4-4.

But Rybakina snuffed out Kasatkina’s surge with a blistering return game to break for a fifth and final time to 5-4. After a brief rain interruption as Rybakina served at 5-4, 30-all, the 2022 Wimbledon champion resumed play and coolly served out the win.

Rybakina finished the match with 17 winners to 12 unforced errors. Kasatkina hit 14 winners to 27 unforced errors, including nine double faults. 

The victory improved Rybakina’s record against Kasatkina to 3-2. She has won their last two matches.

Earlier in the day, Sofia Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands took home the doubles title, defeating Linda Noskova and Heather Watson 6-4, 7-6(4) in the final. The title is Mattek-Sands’ 29th career doubles title and first since 2023 Seoul. It is just the third doubles title for Kenin and the first since she won 2019 Beijing with Mattek-Sands. 

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