Top seed Elena Rybakina on Sunday powered to a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Russia’s Daria Kasatkina in the final of the Abu Dhabi Open 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 by grabbing an early break, but seventh seed Kasatkina struck back with one of her own, only to fall behind again in blustery conditions.
Rybakina regained her 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 hard courts — 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 26-year-old Kasatkina with a cross-court scorcher and the Moscow-born Kazakh returned after a brief rain delay to secure the victory on serve.
Both players headed to Doha for the Qatar Open, with Kasatkina set to face Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her opener yesterday, while Rybakina had 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 [the] final there,” she said.
“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,” she added.
Kasatkina, who came through a grueling 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,” she said. “There’s nothing to be sad about, but of course it’s always disappointing to lose in a final.”
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