ROME: Elena Rybakina has comfortably won both her matches against Iga Swiatek this year but expects a tougher test against the world number one when the pair face off on clay at the Italian Open later on Wednesday.
Rybakina downed Swiatek in straight sets at the Australian Open in January and ended her title defence at Indian Wells with both matches played on hardcourts, where the Wimbledon champion used her booming serve and groundstrokes to good effect.
But the Kazakh said French Open champion Swiatek would be a completely different prospect in the Rome quarter-final.
“I think clay changes it a lot,” Rybakina said. “It’s more rallies, it’s more physical, she has more time, I have more time. It’s much different than the hardcourts for sure.
“I’m not expecting much. It’s a practice. I’m taking it this way. Hopefully, it’ll help me perform at the French Open.”
Rybakina said she was not dwelling too much on the pair’s budding rivalry.
“But of course I see some comments,” Rybakina said. “It’s good if fans think that way and that it’s entertaining to see us play against each other.”
Poland’s Swiatek, who won her first match with Rybakina in Ostrava two years ago, said she would treat their latest meeting like any other match.
“For now I don’t have any mindset,” defending Rome champion Swiatek said. “It’s neutral. Coming back to my previous matches against Elena, it doesn’t make sense. It was on hardcourts.
“I know how I felt. This time I don’t have any expectations. I’m just going to come out and play the best game possible.”