Adelaide, Jan 8 (MNN) Number 1 seed Ashleigh Barty will meet number 7 seed Elena Rybakina in Adelaide International 500 final as both recorded straight-sets semi-final wins here on Saturday.
Barty dismissed defending champion and number 5 seed Iga Swiatek 6-2, 6-4 in 1 hour and 27 minutes in her bid for the title she won in 2020.
Rybakina took 1 hour and 23 minutes to sweep past an unseeded Misaki Doi 6-4, 6-3 to reach the 8th WTA singles final of her burgeoning career.
Barty’s victory moves the Australian into her 20th WTA-level final, and fifth on home soil. It was her second straight-sets defeat of Swiatek in as many encounters, after she beat the Pole 7-5, 6-4 in the third round of Madrid last year.
Barty’s win adds to one of her most impressive stats over the past 12 months. It was her sixth straight win against a Top 20 player, and since the start of 2021 she has a 16-1 record against players in that echelon. The sole defeat was to Aryna Sabalenka in the Madrid final.
A two-time finalist in Sydney in 2018 and 2019, Barty claimed her first home-soil title at Adelaide 2020, and added the Yarra Valley Classic trophy last year.
She has won 20 of her past 23 matches in Australia.
Having won her first major crown at Roland Garros 2019 and second at Wimbledon 2021, Barty’s quest to become the first domestic champion of the Australian Open women’s title since Chris O’Neil in 1978 will be one of this month’s most compelling narratives.
Barty’s best performance to date has been a semi-final run in 2020.
Rybakina back to her best as she beats Misaki Doi
Though Rybakina reached three semi-finals last season (Eastbourne, the Olympic Games and the Chicago Fall Tennis Classic), the Kazakh was unable to win any of them. She reached a tour-leading five finals in 2020, but prior to this week, her most recent WTA singles final came at Strasbourg in September of that year.
Doi, who peaked at a career-high ranking of world number 30 in 2016, had also toppled Rybakina in their lone previous encounter, which came on the clay courts of Bastad in 2019.
But Rybakina was able to avenge that loss and return to a championship final for the first time in 15 months. Rybakina will now seek to add a third WTA singles title to her other trophies, which came at 2019 Bucharest and 2020 Hobart.
Rybakina slammed nine aces during her victory over 30-year-old Doi, bringing her ace total for the week to 31.
The 22-year-old Kazakh had a sturdy 75 per cent success rate behind her first serve, and was also impressive with her second serve, winning 70 per cent of those points.
Doi, who was in the first WTA 500 semi-finals of her career, was able to fend off seven break points, but still dropped serve four times. The Japanese player won only 39 percent of points behind her second serve.
Barty and Rybakina’s only previous meeting was also on Australian soil – a 6-3, 6-2 win for Barty in the third round of the 2020 Australian Open.
Rybakina had been coming off consecutive finals in Shenzhen and Hobart, losing to Ekaterina Alexandrova in the former but claiming her second career title over Zhang Shuai in the latter.
She took that momentum into Melbourne to reach the Round of 32 in a major for the first time, and ultimately won 21 out of 25 matches in the first two months of 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
Barty had been contesting her first Grand Slam as the top seed, and went on to a career-best semifinal showing at the Australian Open before falling to eventual champion Sofia Kenin.