STRASBOURG, France – No.5 Elena Rybakina produced a highly accomplished display to defeat Zhang Shuai, 6-3, 6-2 in 59 minutes to move into the semifinals of the Internationaux de Strasbourg.

The Kazak was bidding for a ninth semifinal since the beginning of 2019, and one of the most in-form players on the WTA Tour was ruthless in her execution against an opponent who was 0-3 in Strasbourg before this year’s event.

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In a repeat of the Hobart final from earlier this year, which Rybakina won, the WTA World No.18 produced a virtually flawless match, making 66% of her first serves and hitting 21 winners to just eight unforced errors.

“It wasn’t easy. Of course, it’s never easy,” the 2019 Bucharest champion, who was made to work hard to overcome Alizé Cornet in the previous round, said. “I played much better today than in my last match. I’m pleased with my serve today.“It wasn’t easy. Of course, it’s never easy,” she said. “I played much better today than in my last match. I’m pleased with my serve today.

“With every win, you become more confident but I’m going to focus on the next match and we’ll see how we go.” 

Although Zhang was able to hold in the first game, it was evident that Rybakina was going to be aggressive on return. Indeed, the 21-year-old did not have to wait long to make a breakthrough, pushing her opponent around the baseline before delivering a backhand winner to seal the opening break of the match.

It would be the only break point of the first set, but Rybakina, the WTA leader in aces this year, defended her serve confidently and quickly, sealing the opening frame with an ace after just 30 minutes of play.

After the players traded holds at the beginning of the second, again Rybakina took advantage, forcing the WTA World No.40 to fire long as she faced break point.

A clean forehand winner sealed another break, maintaining her perfect record on break points, though a lapse in concentration opened the door for the Chinese to close the gap and retain some hope.

That glimmer, however, was short lived as Rybakina broke for a third time in succession to move within a game of the match, which was closed out in typically confident style.

Rybakina has, therefore, moved to 5-0 in quarterfinals for the year and will face Nao Hibino in the semifinals on Friday.

2020 Strasbourg highlights: Rybakina slides past Cornet