WTA Elite Trophy: Magdalena Rybarikova prevails in thriller against Kristina Mladenovic

Magdalena Rybarikova played some of her best tennis to oust world number 10 Kristina Mladenovic at the WTA Elite Trophy as the Slovakian ended off her career-best season with an impressive victory.

WTA Elite Trophy: Magdalena Rybarikova prevails in thriller against Kristina Mladenovic
Magdalena Rybarikova will head into 2018 off a career-high ranking | Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images Europe
Kristina Mladenovic
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Magdalena Rybarikova

A high-quality match between two aggressive, yet, crafty players saw Magdalena Rybarikova prevail against the top seed Kristina Mladenovic in the Frenchwoman’s opening match at the 2017 WTA Elite Trophy. The Slovakian had previously lost to Julia Goerges the day before while Mladenovic’s losing streak extends to 11 despite a spirited performance, which could be considered her best match within a couple of months. Although Rybarikova will not be able to qualify for the semifinals, she earned the rare chance to end off the season with a win, her second top-10 win of the year.

Perfect start for Rybarikova

Mladenovic’s woes already kicked in during the opening game of the encounter as the Frenchwoman threw in some easy errors to get broken early. Rybarikova’s amazing variety of play was too good as she often troubled her higher-ranked opponent with some good hands at the net, consolidating the break for a 2-0 lead.

Rybarikova in action at the 2017 China Open | Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images AsiaPac
Rybarikova in action at the 2017 China Open | Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images AsiaPac

Mladenovic fights back

Unexpectedly, the world number 10 started to find her best tennis, coming up with several powerful serves before looking solid on her forehand, which was able to overpower the consistent Rybarikova backhand defensive slice. Within a blink of an eye, Mladenovic leveled the scores having saved a game point to break straight back.

Rybarikova steals the opening set

The rest of the set was much more straightforward as both players looked incredibly untouchable on their serves, with Mladenovic seemingly being able to find back her vintage serving while Rybarikova dictated play with her good follow-ups. We had to wait until the 11th game for the next breakthrough when the Frenchwoman did not convert her game points but instead committed a couple of errors and Rybarikova eventually got the break with some good defensive skills. Rybarikova was just simply clinical at the net, outplaying Mladenovic there, and ultimately clinched the first set 7-5.

Rybarikova in action at the 2017 China Open | Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images AsiaPac
Rybarikova in action at the 2017 China Open | Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images AsiaPac

Rybarikova fails to convert her chances

The Slovakian had the golden opportunity to take the lead in the early stages of the second set but Mladenovic was able to showcase her excellent aggressive style of tennis as she fended off a couple of break points to narrowly hold her serve. The Frenchwoman looked determined to end her 10-match losing streak as she saved two game points in the following game with an incredible lob winner sealing the break for her.

Mladenovic produces a comeback and takes the second set

Although Rybarikova was able to break straight back, Mladenovic still kept her head high and remained composed as she came up with several powerful returns to regain the lead. This time, the Frenchwoman was able to consolidate the break to love for a commanding 4-1 lead. A lengthy medical time-out saw Rybarikova receive treatment on her back and hip, but it did not break Mladenovic’s rhythm as the Frenchwoman ultimately sealed the second set 6-1.

Mladenovic in action at the 2017 China Open | Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images AsiaPac
Mladenovic in action at the 2017 China Open | Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images AsiaPac

Tight start to the final set

Rybarikova overcame the disappointment of being outclassed in the second set with a nervy service hold in the opening game of the decider as her net game proved to be too good, fending off a couple of break points. It soon became galore of break points as this time Mladenovic had a tight service hold before making the first breakthrough of the final set, with Rybarikova missing the rhythm on her shots.

Rybarikova earns the momentum

The changeover after the third game proved to be pivotal in deciding the match outcome as Rybarikova used this time to her advantage, resetting her mindset and maintaining her composure. The Slovakian was able to impressively clinch three consecutive games before an exchange of breaks saw Rybarikova open up a formidable 5-3 lead. The momentum was all with her, and she earned the golden opportunity to serve out the match.

Mladenovic in action at the 2017 China Open | Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images AsiaPac
Mladenovic in action at the 2017 China Open | Photo: Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images AsiaPac

Mladenovic just falls short as Rybarikova takes the win

However, Mladenovic put in a respectable effort and produced a tough fight to prevent Rybarikova from easily closing out the match, coming up with some of her best tennis of the match to fend off match points and come out of nowhere to break back. The Frenchwoman continued to peak at the crucial moments, saving four match points with four impressive winners.

The match was then brought into a tiebreak to decide the outcome, but Rybarikova was able to power out to a 6-3 lead once again. Another improbable comeback looked to be on the cards but the world number 22 eventually clinched the thrilling victory after a marathon two hours and 48 minutes of play.