Elena Rybakina once again proved too much for world number one Iga Swiatek, denying the defending champion a return to the Indian Wells ending with an emphatic 6-2, 6-2 semi-final win on Friday.
Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina, the Wimbledon champion who stunned Swiatek in the fourth round of the Australian Open en route to the final, will now have the chance to turn the tables on Aryna Sabalenka, who beat him in Melbourne. capture a first Grand Slam Title.
World number two Sabalenka advanced with a 6-2, 6-3 win over seventh seed Maria Sakkari of Greece.
Rybakinaranked 10th in the world, Swiatek was all over the game from the start, painting the lines with his ground strokes and serving with the right accuracy.
Swiatek, who won the French and US Open last year in a campaign that included eight titles in all, had no answer and gave back the first set with a second-set deficit. first.
It was even more even in the second as Rybakina went on a 5-0 run. Swiatek, who revealed after the match that he was dealing with “trouble” with his spine, finally managed to hold for 5-1, jumping to break as Rybakina suddenly struggled on her first serve. in the next game.
Rybakina managed to get two points at 40-15, but Swiatek saved one on a header and another on the return of a second serve, winning two points. to finish the break for 5-2.
But there will be no return. A mistake by Swiatek who looked like she was going to chase a ball back to the baseline gave Rybakina another point and she confidently converted.
“I didn’t expect to play today,” said Rybakina, who battled through three sets to beat Czech Karolina Muchova in the quarterfinals.
“Hopefully I’ll play like that on Sunday,” she added after denying Swiatek a bid to become the first woman since Martina Navratilova in 1990-91 to win back-to-back singles. the California desert.
Swiatekwho said he still hopes to defend his title at the Miami Open which starts next week, was disappointed that he could not implement his coach’s suggestions for stopping Rybakina.
“We were thinking about the Australian Open as we wanted to learn a lesson from that match,” he said. “I wanted to use his advice and improve my game. But I couldn’t do that today.”
Sabalenka had to fight back from a set down to beat Rybakina in the final of the Australian Open, and the Kazakh was confident she could make up for that loss in the upcoming Grand Slam title battle. Slam.
“If I play like today, I think I will have all the opportunities,” he said.
Sabalenka beat Sakkari in the arena.
Playing with high confidence, Sabalenka opened with a quick serve that showed two aces and broke Sakkari for 3-1.
Sakkari was quick to return as Sabalenka double-faulted on break point. But the Belarusian won the next five games to take the set and take a 2-0 lead.
Sakkari, perhaps trying to do too much in the face of Sabalenka’s powerful groundstrokes, made three forehand errors to earn her triple point.
He saved two with a service winner and an ace but sent another back from the court in the third.
Sabalenka was rolling, breaking Sakkari on a backhand serve to come back up the line for 2-0 in the second.
But she broke back with a crazy game and Sakkari held out for the set before Sabalenka held on to win in three games.
Sabalenka says he may have let the game slip away in past years, but now plays with a new sense of confidence.
“In the past I’ve lost a lot of games like this, just because of a few not very smart mistakes,” he said. “I reminded myself that it’s okay to make these mistakes, I’m not a robot, I can miss these shots and maybe that’s why I was able to fight and keep trying.”
After Sakkari gave up two match points in the sixth game, Sabalenka drilled another return of serve that won for the third break point of the match, which he got the cross of the ball.
Sabalenka started the tournament with 21 wins to Sakkari’s nine after denying her opponent a comeback in the Indian Wells final.
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