The fifth edition of Iga Swiatek's rivalry with Elena Rybakina will take place in the Qatar TotalEnergies Open final on Saturday.

No.1 seed and two-time defending champion Swiatek advanced to her third straight final in Doha after Karolina Pliskova withdrew from their scheduled semifinal match on Friday due to a lower back injury. No.3 seed Rybakina joined her after defeating Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-4 to reach her third final of 2024.

Pliskova had won her last nine matches prior to the withdrawal, having won her first title in four years last week at the WTA 250 in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. She defeated Anna Kalinskaya, Anastasia Potapova, Linda Noskova and Naomi Osaka this week. Her first three victories came in three sets, and she defeated Osaka in a pair of tiebreaks on Thursday -- handing the four-time Grand Slam winner a loss for the second time in four tournaments in her comeback from maternity leave so far.

"Sorry for the tournament that I had to withdraw, but unfortunately I had too many matches in last couple of days, and my body just didn't react well, especially after last night having a tough match against Naomi," Pliskova said.

"I felt like I was pushing it a little bit over limit, and then I felt very big pain in my lower back, so I'm not able to compete anymore."

The walkover is not counted towards Swiatek's official win-loss record against Pliskova or otherwise, nor does it end Pliskova's unbeaten streak.

Swiatek will enter Saturday's final on an 11-match winning streak in Doha, having won her last 21 sets at the tournament. Overall, her career win-loss record at the event is 12-1, with her only defeat coming in the 2020 second round to Svetlana Kuznetsova. The World No.1 is looking to become the first woman to win three straight titles at a single Hologic WTA Tour event since Serena Williams completed a hat trick at the Miami Open from 2013-15.

Rybakina is on an eight-match winning streak after capturing her seventh career title last week in Abu Dhabi. Also the champion in Brisbane at the start of January, her 2024 record now stands at 15-2.

The only previous encounter between Rybakina and Pavlyuchenkova had been a nailbiter, with Pavlyuchenkova edging it 6-7(2), 6-2, 9-7 in the 2021 Roland Garros quarterfinals before going on to reach her first major final. This time round, Rybakina turned the tables emphatically with a lights-out performance.

The Kazakhstani played a near-flawless match to race to a 6-2, 5-1 lead. A succession of sweetly-struck backhand winners enabled her to break Pavlyuchenkova twice in the first set and again at the start of the second; she tightened her grip on the match after coming through a nine-deuce service game -- saving five break points -- to edge out to 3-1.

Pavlyuchenkova found some of her best winners at the last minute. The 32-year-old won three straight games from 5-1 down, and even held a break point to level at 5-5. But Rybakina staved it off with a hefty crosscourt forehand, and moments later dealed victory with her third ace of the day.

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Swiatek vs. Rybakina V

Swiatek and Rybakina split two junior meetings in 2016 and 2017, and have played each other four times at pro level, with Rybakina leading 3-1. The Pole took their first meeting 7-6(5), 6-2 in the 2021 Ostrava quarterfinals, but Rybakina announced herself as one of Swiatek's greatest threats with a trio of victories in 2023.

Rybakina has won both of their previous matches on outdoor hard courts in straight sets, in the fourth round of the Australian Open and the Indian Wells semifinals last year. They have not played since the Rome quarterfinals last May, which Rybakina took after Swiatek retired at 2-2 in the third set due to a thigh injury.

Rybakina on her rivalry with Swiatek: "I think we both know each other pretty well, and of course we trying to study and analyze. For now it was going my way, but as I said, she's playing really good. I think she's a little bit fresher than me, that's for sure, but for me it was already a very positive two weeks, so I try to push myself tomorrow and see how it's gonna go. 

"For me the most important is try to recover physically, because with Iga, it's a lot about the physics, of course. She's making you work for every point, and of course I need to stay aggressive and play my game, but we see what can I do tomorrow."