Top seed Simona Halep defeated Elena Rybakina 3-6 6-3 7-6(5) on Saturday to claim her second Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships title. It was arguably the most dramatic final in the history of the women’s event and a fitting end to the 20th anniversary celebrations of the tournament hosting the WTA Tour.
In what proved to be an exciting week of ups and downs for her, Halep saved a match point in her opening match against Ons Jabeur, fought back from a set down to defeat Aryna Sabalenka and then produced a near flawless performance against Jennifer Brady in the semi-finals, committing just eight unforced errors, before bringing her week to a dramatic conclusion.
There were countless tremendous rallies which stretched both players to the limit, and the outcome of the final remained in doubt right up until the final ball as both players competed at the very highest level.
“Well, it feels great that I could win it. Actually, it was amazing,” said Halep. “She fought till the end. She didn’t give up any balls. It was really tough mentally. The pressure was very high. But I want it badly, so that’s why I fought till the end. Yeah, I think these matches, sometimes it’s better if we finish like equal because I feel in a way sorry for her because she’s young and she wanted it so much.
“She’s young. She doesn’t feel the fear. She doesn’t think too much about the result. What it comes now is a bonus, in my opinion, for her. She’s strong. She has a huge serve. She’s tall. She has power. I think she’s really good to get into the top 10 very soon.”
Rybakina, making her debut in Dubai, began the celebration of her arrival into the world’s top 20 this week by defeating recently crowned Australian Open champion and number 7 seed Sofia Kenin and then followed that up by dismissing 2nd seed Karolina Pliskova, Katerina Siniakova and 8th seed Petra Martic. And she gave everything she had in what was a magnificent final.
“I played really good,” said Rybakina. “It was actually a close match. I’m a bit upset that it’s again just final. In the beginning of the week I didn’t even expect that I can be in the final. So it’s been a great week for me. She’s a great champion. She’s fighting till the end. It was a great match from both of us I think. I’m really proud of myself that I managed to play all these matches and beat such a great players. It’s been amazing week here.”
Top seeds and defending champions Su-wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova successfully defended their doubles title with a tense 7-5 3-6 10-5 win over the fifth-seeded pair of Barbora Krejcikova and Saisai Zheng. Individually ranked 1 and 2 in the world, they are the first team to retain their title since Cara Black and Liezel Huber won in 2007-9. It is the reigning Wimbledon champion’s seventh title together and their second of the year after winning Brisbane, and they were also runners-up at the 2019 WTA Finals and the 2020 Australian Open. It was also Su-wei Hsieh’s third consecutive appearance in the Dubai final, after she finished as runner-up in 2018 with Shuai Peng.
“It is fitting that Simona Halep should win her 20th title at our 20th anniversary of hosting the WTA Tour,” said Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of Dubai Duty Free. “We congratulate her in adding to her 2015 title here, and also Elena Rybakina who has played so magnificently not only this week but throughout the 2020 season, reaching a remarkable four finals. We very much look forward to seeing Simona Halep return next year to defend her title, and to welcome back one of the rising stars of the game, Elena Rybakina.
“Congratulations as well to our doubles champions Su-wei Hsieh and Barbora Strycova, who have played so well this week to retain their title, and to Barbora Krejcikova and Saisai Zheng in reaching the final. We wish them all well in the weeks and months ahead.”
Tournament Director Salah Tahlak added, “Since Simona Halep won her first title in 2013 only Serena Williams has won more, and we congratulate her on her triumph tonight. She has taken us on a roller-coaster ride this week, but has got better and better with each match and her victory was well-earned. It has been wonderful as well this week to witness a champion of the future. Elena Rybakina’s rise over the past year has been astonishing, and reaching four finals in her first five tournaments of the season is surely unprecedented in the modern game.”