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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday March 27, 2023

Elena Rybakina

Rybakina battled past Elise Mertens to break new ground at the Miami Open.

Photo Source: Getty

Today’s tussle with tried-and-true veteran Elise Mertens was tough from start to finish, but 23-year-old Elena Rybakina has no problem with a good old-fashioned battle.

Tennis Express

She was sluggish at times, but always found the energy to fight through tense moments, as she edged the crafty Belgian 6-4, 6-3 for her 11th consecutive victory and a spot in the Miami quarterfinals for the first time.

Rybakina, now 19-4 on the season and temporarily tied with Aryna Sabalenka for the WTA’s lead in victories in 2023, will face Italian Martina Trevisan in the last eight.

“It wasn’t easy at all,” Rybakina said. “But I’m happy that in the end it was straight sets.”

She’s right – it could have been more complicated.

Mertens drew first blood and led by a break in the opener, but Rybakina was quick to react as she broke back for 4-all.

Rybakina then held serve in a deuce game, for 5-4, and continued playing timely tennis as she converted her third set point with Mertens serving – 6-4.

Rybakina quickly raced out to a three-love lead in the second set but was nearly pegged back on serve a few games later when Mertens earned four break points with the Kazakh serving at 3-1.

Rybakina, who fired ten aces on the day, never looked back after that 19-point game – she converted her fourth match point on serve a few games later, ending a demanding contest in one hour and 47-minutes.

7th-ranked Rybakina improves to 3-1 over Mertens, who drops to 10-8 on the season.

The 23-year-old powerhouse is bidding to become the fifth different woman to win the Sunshine Double, along with Steffi Graf (1994-1996), Kim Clijsters (2005) Victoria Azarenka (2016) and Iga Swiatek (2022).

“It’s really difficult, because it’s completely different conditions, different ball,” said Rybakina. “Also here it’s more humid, and with the travel [from Indian Wells] it’s not easy at all. Still I’m trying to manage, and feel the rhythm. I’m trying to do my best and hopefully my next matches are going to be better.”


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