Elena Rybakina, who plays for Kazakhstan, has played five events and is currently 18-3. The 20-year-old is into the Dubai semifinals, with wins against Australian Open champ Sofia Kenin and third-ranked Karolina Pliskova.
The Czech is the highest-ranked player she has defeated, but Rybakina says she's concentrating on her own game.
"I didn't really think if she's No. 2, 3. Doesn't really matter for me. I always try to do my best," she said. "Of course, I want to win every match."
This year, she's been close to perfection, reaching the final of Shenzhen, winning Hobart and finishing runner-up at St. Petersburg a day before arriving in Dubai. Rybakina credits her coach Stefano Vukov for her improvement and success this season.
“[We're] trying to work a lot on my techniques because still a lot of things I have to improve. Of course, we work a lot on tactics before the match,” Rybakina said following her win against Kenin. “For example, the final [against Kiki Bertens in St. Petersburg] I didn't follow tactic at all. Today [in Dubai] I followed the tactic, I think like 90%. That's why I won.”
Exactly a year ago, Rybakina was barely in the Top 200, and will be at least No. 18 next week with her run thus far. A title would push her up to No. 16. Rybakina says her first full off-season session with her coach, including a team at an academy, has helped her keep rising.
“I had good pre-season actually. First time I did like six weeks of preparation. I feel good on court. I feel confidence,” she said.