Rybakina cruises past Kasatkina to claim Abu Dhabi title

Published February 12, 2024
Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan poses with the trophy during the podium ceremony after winning the Women’s Singles final match at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open tennis tournament in Abu Dhabi on February 11, 2024. — AFP
Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan poses with the trophy during the podium ceremony after winning the Women’s Singles final match at the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open tennis tournament in Abu Dhabi on February 11, 2024. — AFP

ABU DHABI: Top seed Elena Rybakina powered to a 6-1, 6-4 win over Russian Daria Kasatkina in the final of the Abu Dhabi Open on Sunday to lift her second trophy of the season and seventh overall.

The 2022 Wimbledon champion began the contest on Stadium Court in typically dominant fashion to grab an early break, but seventh seed Kasatkina struck back with one of her own only to fall behind again in blustery conditions.

Rybakina regained composure to go 5-1 up on the back of big serving as Kasatkina struggled for consistency and the 24-year-old Brisbane champion wrapped up the opening set in 25 minutes when her opponent sent a forehand wide.

The pair had come into the contest having split their four meetings — all on hardcourts — and Adelaide runner-up Kasatkina showed plenty of fight to pull two breaks back in the next set with relentless baseline hitting and stunning winners.

Level at 4-4, Rybakina turned the heat up to break the 26-year-old Kasatkina with a crosscourt scorcher and the Moscow-born Kazakh returned after a brief rain delay to secure the victory on serve.

Both players will now head to Doha for the Qatar Open, with Kasatkina set to face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her opener on Monday while Rybakina has a bye into the second round.

“A tough week, especially the last matches, and tomorrow is already a match in Doha (for Kasatkina),” Rybakina said. “Hopefully we both recover and do well there and maybe play final there.

“I want to thank all the fans who came to support us. It’s been an amazing atmosphere and especially to see the flags from Kazakhstan it really means a lot.”

Kasatkina, who came through a gruelling semi-final against Beatriz Haddad Maia on Saturday that lasted nearly three hours, was disappointed with the loss but remained upbeat about her form early in the season.

“Did I have enough in the tank for the final? I squeezed everything that I had left and it wasn’t enough against a player like Elena ... you have to be at your best to have a chance to beat her,” Kasatkina said.

“Unfortunate that the tournament ended this way but there’s a lot of positives in the week. There’s nothing to be sad about but of course it’s always disappointing to lose in a final.”

Published in Dawn, February 12th, 2024

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