Elena Rybakina simply does not have the energy to be surprised by her winning ways. After playing a grueling three-set final at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Saturday, the 20-year-old came through a quick turnaround to earn her tour-leading 20th win of the season in the first round of the Qatar Total Open, coming back to defeat Sorana Cirstea, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in her Doha debut.
With the win, Rybakina became the first player to win 20 matches in the first two months of a season since Elena Dementieva in 2009.
“Of course I’m tired but to be honest I don’t feel like I played so many matches,” Rybakina told WTA Insider after the win. “I just wanted to win some titles. I’m playing so many finals, so after the loss in the Dubai final, I had even more motivation to play here.
“Now I feel a little bit tired but I think I have time to recover and we’ll see how it goes this tournament.”
Heading into her second-round match against Alison Van Uytvanck, Rybakina has posted a 20-4 record across the five tournaments she’s played. Aside from the Australian Open, where she made her first third-round appearance at a Slam before losing to World No.1 Ashleigh Barty, Rybakina has made the final of all the tournaments she’s played this year, with three of her four losses coming to Top 10 opponents: Barty (Australian Open), Kiki Bertens (St. Petersburg final), Simona Halep (Dubai final).
Rybakina credits her improved physicality and tactical awareness for her early-season surge, which has put her firmly in the Top 20 at a career-high No.17. Not bad for a player who was ranked No.193 12 months ago.
“I had for the first time a real pre-season for six weeks,” Rybakina said. “It was really difficult for me, but I feel good. You can see how many matches I played. I didn’t expect this.”
I’ve been a national college sports reporter since 2011, covering both college football and college basketball. I also covered the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, specializing in swimming coverage.