2021 Viking International Eastbourne

Ostapenko v Rybakina: Semi-final Preview

Baseline battle ensues between ex-Grand Slam champion and rising star

Jelena Ostapenko, a former Wimbledon semi-finalist, takes on Kazakhstani Elena Rybakina as both vie to reach their maiden WTA Tour final this season.

Both players will have set their sights on capturing their first grass court title ahead of the Championships at SW19, with Rybakina yet to play at the All England Club.

Ostapenko, the surprise 2017 French Open champion, has been in fine fettle at Devonshire Park. She stunned Russia’s no.8 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkovano in the opening round, followed it up with victory over Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur — last week’s Birmingham champion — then halted Russian Daria Kasatkina in their quarter-final thriller.

Yet the 24-year-old’s serve has been wayward, with frequent double faults prolonging the agony. Ostapenko will have to rely on her heavy hitting to control the points as her serve is too unreliable.

Rybakina has not been convincing in registering her trio of triumphs at Devonshire Park. She edged past over Brit Harriet Dart in the opening match, saw off Ukraine’s no.2 seed Elina Svitolina then saved two match points to trump Latvia’s Anastasija Sevastova 2–6 7–6(7) 7–6(5) in their quarter-final.

The six-foot Kazakh, who reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final at Roland Garros this month, is a rising star. Last year she reached five WTA Tour finals and has accounted for six wins over top 10 players, although has yet to play in the main draw at Wimbledon.

As both players are stellar hard-hitting baseliners the encounter should comprise swift and powerful rallies, but breaks of serve are anticipated as Rybakina double-faulted six times in her quarter-final win.

Ostapenko beat Elena Rybakina in straight sets at the 2019 Linz Open, Austria, but the Kazakh is a much improved player and the result of this clash lies on who produces less unforced errors and manages to keep control of their serve.

Prediction | Ostapenko in three sets

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