Why Elena Rybakina is a terrible match up for Iga Swiatek

Swiatek loses in Stuttgart for the first time in her career
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With her win over Iga Swiatek in the semifinals of the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, Elena Rybakina now leads the head-to-head 4-2 and 2-0 on clay. Rybakina doesn't move or slide well on clay so it doesn't bode well for Swiatek that she is losing to her considering clay is Swiatek's favourite surface.

Swiatek had a poor day by her standards, after a brilliant start and a 2-0 lead in the first set, she made a crucial unforced error to not break for 3-0 and crumbled from that moment. She fought well in the second set and was clutch in the breakpoints, but in the third set, her game was out of sorts again. Her serve and forehand were leaking a lot of errors and returns not making enough damage.

Overall, it was a good match, with high-intensity rallies and solid shotmaking from both players. Neither player played at their absolute peak, although both had periods of excellent tennis and occasionally crossed paths. However, the breakpoint conversion was abysmal. Rybakina's return of serve put a lot of pressure on Swiatek and it was probably the most decisive shot in deciding the semifinal.

Swiatek is starting to suffer from being too predictable due to her one-dimensionality. Despite being a three-time Roland Garros champion, she never uses a slice or drop shots in her matches. The decision to ball-bash on her forehand instead of using more spin backfires when facing big hitters, particularly Rybakina.

Iga Swiatek does not match-up well against Elena Rybakina

Swiatek's game feeds into Rybakina's game so well. The Kazakh is not bothered by Swiatek's loopy balls which seem to land right in her strike zone. The pinpoint accuracy of Rybakina also poses problems for the world No.1, as it neutralizes her return quite a lot. Swiatek gets rushed on her forehand against Rybakina's hard-hitting and her serve is just a sitting duck, she can't get many free points off it.

Iga Swiatek is so used to playing front-foot offensive tennis and dismantling her opponents, so when she comes up against a bigger server and hard hitter who thrives at first-strike tennis like Rybakina, she often tries to match Rybakina's pace and fight fire with fire instead of using more spin and shape on her forehand to get Rybakina off the court and expose the movement.

Elena Rybakina's relentlessly flat and deep balls drive Iga Swiatek crazy on both sides. Rybakina is always at her imperturbable best in this match-up which drives Swiatek even crazier. Rybakina is always so confident that she can win this match-up if she executes, and Swiatek is always struggling to formulate a plan when that's happening.

They are both fantastic athletes and top players. Their contrasting styles make it fun to watch their matches. Hopefully, they will have many more matches to build on this rivalry.

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