World number 19 Elena Rybakina will face up to 394th-ranked and qualifier Lucrezia Stefanini in the first round of the 2021 WTA Abu Dhabi on Thursday, January 7, with the match starting at 10 am local time (6 am BST or 12 midnight Eastern Time). Get the live streaming options of this Elena Rybakina v Lucrezia Stefanini match along with its preview, head to head, and tips here.
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Elena Rybakina v Lucrezia Stefanini Head to Head
There has been one previous meeting between these two players and it came on the ITF circuit in Rome in 2018. Rybakina had overturned a set deficit in that one to complete a victory, with the Kazakh ranked around 180th in the world at that time.
Rybakina Hoping to Rise Further
The 21-year-old Kazakh has won two WTA titles in her career, one apiece in 2019 and 2020, but it’s the seven finals in a short span of 15 months that catches the eye.
Having played in the first of those at the Bucharest Open in July 2019 – and won that one on clay – Rybakina then went on to make it to six further title-deciders, five of which came on hard court surfaces. She won just one of them but has done enough to show she is ready to make that leap forward.
Her Grand Slam record isn’t the best, yet, but she has a chance to correct that by showing what she is capable of in a tournament as big as this one. With 64 players in the draw and many of the top 20 players featuring in it, a deep run at this one should give her the necessary confidence to convert that into a big major run as well.
That’s despite bit of a tapering off of her form towards the end of the previous season where she lost in the second round at the French Open and then crashed out in the first in Ostrava.
Stefanini Qualifies From Behind
Italy’s Stefanini needed to win two matches at the qualifiers to make it to the main draw and both times, she overcame the loss of the first set to emerge victorious in the encounter.
In her opener, she overcame the 256th-ranked Tena Lukas before defeating 309th-ranked Irina Fetecau in the second to set up this meeting with Rybakina.
This was after Stefanini struggled through the entire 2020 season, failing to qualify for three of the ITF events and winning two matches in the main draw of tournaments on just one occasion.
The 394th-ranked Stefanini has hovered around that ranking mark since she broke into the top 400 in September 2018, but with a qualification for a WTA 500 event, it could give her a few more ranking points that usual.
Of course a win here would be worth gold-dust for a player ranked that low but the enormity of the task can be seen from the fact she is a good 380 places behind her opponent at this stage.
Rybakina v Stefanini Prediction and Tip
This has a straight-setter written all over it but Rybakina would do well to shrug off any rustiness from the break, going up against a player who has already played six sets and has shown to put up some fight.
Tip: Under 16.5 games in the match: 5/6 (bet365)