In a fourth-round showdown No.22 seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan upset World No.1 Iga Swiatek of Poland to make her first Australian Open quarterfinal here at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday.
Ons Jabeur of Tunisia will meet Elena Rybakina in a historic women’s singles final that features an Arab player in a Grand Slam summit clash for the first time in history of the game.
But more than the history part, for the tennis aficionados it will be a clash between two players of contrasting styles.
It is a classic clash of the two distinct styles — Rybakina, at 6-feet-0, hits the ball hard, with tempo and timing. Jabeur is shorter but is a magician with the racquet, routinely making unbelievable shots with power and precision.
This will be the first time in the Open Era at Wimbledon that both women finalists will be playing in their first Grand Slam singles final.
Rybakins reached the semifinal by beating former champion Simona Halep in straight sets. Rybakina has produced 49 aces in six matches and more than half of her first serves (51 percent) haven’t come back into play.
Jabeur, who got the better of Tatjana Maria in a hard-fought three-setter in the semifinal, is looking forward to the clash on Saturday.
“Rybakina is an aggressive player,” Jabeur said. “If you give her a little bit of time, she will take that away. I think she can play really good on grass because aggressive and changing the rhythm.
“She serves really well, so my main goal is to return as many balls as I can, to make her really work hard to win the point. I know she can hit really hard and hit a lot of winners.”
And yet, Jabeur has an edge because of her returns. She’s won 46 percent of the points returning first serves (Ryabakina is at 32 percent) and 47 percent of her return games, well ahead of Rybakina’s 30 percent. In service games won, Rybakina holds a surprisingly slender margin, 86 percent to 85 percent.
Rybakina has been moving quite well for a six-footer, but Jabeur is more fluid and flexible. On one memorable point against Maria, Jabeur took a ball nearly three feet behind her with a little flick half-volley and then, in anticipation of the next shot, spun 360 degrees.
Rybakina and Jabeur have played three times before, but it was 1-all when that third match ended a year ago with Rybakina retiring due to illness in Chicago.
“I know that my game could really bother her,” Jabeur said. “I really try to focus more on myself, do a lot of slices, try to really make her work hard. I know that type of player usually wins the point in two or three shots. For me, I’m just going to continue and do what I do on the court.”
Said Rybakina, “I know how Ons plays. She knows how I play. We know each other well. We see how it’s going to go.”
(Inputs from IANS)