The first final of the new decade will take place at the Shenzhen Open as seventh seed Elena Rybakina faces fifth seed Ekaterina Alexandrova. For the 20-year old Rybakina, she seeks to add the trophy in China to her title she won in Bucharest last fall while Alexandrova seeks her first career championship.
Rybakina's road to the final
The seventh seed started her tournament with a 6-2, 1-6, 6-2 victory over two Chinese players, first ousting Saisai Zheng followed by a 6-3, 6-4 win over Yafan Wang in the second round. A statement win over third seed Elise Mertens 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the quarterfinals sent her to the semifinals where Rybakina defeated Kristyna Pliskova 6-2, 7-5 to qualify for her third career final.
Alexandrova's road to the final
The 25-year old has had a relatively smooth path to the championship match. She defeated Katerina Siniakova 6-4, 6-4 in the first round and Shuai Peng 7-6 (7), 6-1 in the second round before dropping her only set of the tournament in her quarterfinal victory over fourth seed Qiang Wang 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. In the semifinals, Alexandrova picked up one of the biggest wins of her career in the semifinals, dumping out sixth seed Garbine Muguruza 6-4, 6-2.
This is the first career meeting between Rybakina and Alexandrova.
Who will win?
On paper, this seems to be a very even matchup. Alexandrova is ranked 34th while Rybakina sits at 36th. The Russian has dropped fewer sets and has the best win of the bunch, routing Muguruza in the semifinals while the Kazakh has the experience of winning a title as she did towards the end of last year and has now reached the quarterfinals or better at four straight events.
Both players are very powerful and will want to play short, quick points. While Alexandrova has a bit more pop than Rybakina, the 20-year old is probably a bit more consistent off the ground. Nerves could get to the Russian as she is only contesting her second career final after making it to the final day in Linz two years ago.
Rybakina has come on fast since last fall and although this is just an International event (as was Bucharest), she can serve notice that she belongs in the conversation with the top youngsters in the game with a title straightaway in 2020 as well as a possible rankings jump that could see her seeded at the upcoming Australian Open.
Prediction: Rybakina in straight sets