Simona Halep and Elena Rybakina to contest Dubai Tennis final

Top seed takes on the tour's most in-form player for the title on Saturday evening

Simona Halep of Romania reacts against Jennifer Brady of USA during the women's singles semi final match on Day Five of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis. Getty Images
Simona Halep of Romania reacts against Jennifer Brady of USA during the women's singles semi final match on Day Five of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis. Getty Images

Simona Halep and Elena Rybakina will battle for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title on Saturday evening after both players progressed from the semi-finals in contrasting style.

Top seed Halep produced her most emphatic performance of the week to defeat American qualifier Jennifer Brady 6-2, 6-0 in just one hour and two minutes. It was the Romanian’s first straight sets win of the tournament having needed to claw back from deficits in the previous rounds against Ons Jabeur and Aryna Sabalenka.

In the earlier semi-final, Rybakina was pushed much closer by Croatian eighth seed Petra Martic and needed to fight back from breaks down in both sets before clinching a 7-6, 7-6 victory after two hours and 12 minutes.

The final will pit the tournament top seed against the WTA Tour’s most in-form player. Rybakina leads the tour in most wins (19) and has now reached the final in all four WTA events she has played this year. The only time she has failed to reach the title match in 2020 was at the Australian Open, where she lost to world No 1 Ashleigh Barty.

Halep, meanwhile, will be aiming for a second Dubai title and first since 2015. While no one can match Rybakina for results this year, Halep is not without form herself and reached the Australian Open semi-finals in her most recent event before Dubai.

Given her busy schedule so far this year, Rybakina’s energy levels may play a major role in Saturday’s final. “So tired, but happy,” she said after her gruelling match against Martic.

Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in action during her semi final match against Petra Martic of Croatia. EPA
Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in action during her semi final match against Petra Martic of Croatia. EPA

Halep, one of the most consistent baseliners on the tour, will want to drag out the points and nullify Rybakina’s dangerous serve and power. If the Romanian can limit Rybakina’s ace count – which already stands at a tour-leading 132 – and turn the final into a baseline battle, then fatigue may ultimately catch up with the world No 19 from Kazakhstan.

“It's amazing what she's done already this year,” Halep said of her final opponent. “I saw her a little bit during some matches, but I don't have the feeling how she's playing because we never played each other.

“She has a big serve, so I have to pay attention on my return and be like today: confident and aggressive if there is a chance, and keep fighting. It's the best thing to do now.”

For Rybakina, she would have noticed how Halep has, prior to Friday's semi-final, started matches slowly in Dubai, the Romanian quickly losing openers to Jabuer and Sabalenka and having little answer to their power. Rybakina will need to quickly settle into her serve and use that weapon to set up quick points.

In the 20th anniversary year of the tournament, victory for Halep would secure a 20th title of her career, while a win for Rybakina would be her 20th match win of the season. Whichever way this final goes, it looks set to be a fine battle between two players in great form.

Published: February 21, 2020 09:49 PM

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