Elena Rybakina had two goals at the start of the week, and one of those has been accomplished.
The big-serving Kazakhstani player cascaded in the WTA rankings following the conclusion of the Australian Open, dropping down two spots to fifth after her shock exit in Melbourne.
Rybakina memorably lost to Anna Blinkova in the second round in a match that featured the longest tiebreak in women's Grand Slam history. Having finished as a runner-up just 12 months ago at the same tournament, the defeat to the Russian came at a personal cost.
But the 24-year-old has been back to his competitive groove at this week's Abu Dhabi Open, where she is the top seed. Rybakina was a favorite to overtake Jessica Pegula in the rankings following the American's decision to sit out the entire Middle East swing due to a neck injury.
Rybakina has done just that at her first tournament since the Australian Open, bludgeoning her way into the final, after beating Liudmila Samosnova. The 2022 Wimbledon champion will rise to World No.4 next Monday, irrespective of her result on Sunday.
Rybakina's next goal will be to add to her trophy collection this weekend. Having won the WTA 500 in Brisbane in the opening week of the season, she has the chance to join Jelena Ostapenko as a multiple champion of 2024 on the women's tour.
The top seed survived her opening match of the tournament in Abu Dhabi against a determined Danielle Collins, who prevented an all-Grand Slam clash between Rybakina and Naomi Osaka. The Kazakhstani needed to step up, fighting from a set and a break down to beat the American.
But normal service resumed in her quarterfinal match against Spanish lucky loser Cristina Bucsa. She hammered seven aces and won 76% first-serve points to register a 6-1, 6-4 victory. With one goal secured, can Rybakina complete a perfect week in the UAE's capital?