PARIS: Fourth seed Elena Rybakina booked her third round spot with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over rising Czech teenager Linda Noskova today, confirming her status as one of the front-runners for the title.
The Wimbledon champion, who reached this year’s Australian Open final, also looked at ease on clay despite her game – a huge serve and powerful shots – being more suited to quicker surfaces.
“I think that, first of all, my first WTA win (in 2019) was on clay, so from that point I thought I actually can play on clay,” Rybakina told reporters.
“I think it depends where, the conditions, how is the weather, balls. Even here it’s quite different from Rome, the tournament I just won.”
“But I think that I can play good. Just with experience over the years and matches I can get just better and better (on clay),” the Kazakh said.
She did not take long to pull away with a break in the third game when Noskova, ranked 50th, fired a backhand into the net.
But the 18-year-old, no stranger to the Paris clay after winning the French Open junior title two years ago, refused to go down without a fight and paid the price for some risky tactics and a double fault on her serve at 40-40 and 5-3 down.
Rybakina, a member of the new ‘Big three’ along with fellow title contenders, world No 1 Iga Swiatek and second seed Aryna Sabalenka, struggled with Noskova’s powerful serve and thundering forehand.
“She was playing really well, especially the serve, but from my side I wasn’t happy so much with the percentage of the serve,” Rybakina said. “A lot of mistakes.”
It was Noskova who carved out two break points at 3-3 but Rybakina, who also won the title at Indian Wells this season before reaching the Miami Open final – both hardcourt tournaments – saved them both.
She responded in kind at the very next game to break Noskova and go 5-3 up before clinching the match with an ace on her fourth match point.