(Indian Wells) Euphoric since her victory at the Australian Open, world no. Indian Wells WTA 1000 Friday in California. Elena Rybakina, 10th in the world and winner at Wimbledon last year, also qualified for the final, beating world No. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek 6-2, 6-2.
The 24-year-old Belarusian, who is reaching this stage of the event for the first time, will face the Polish world no. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek or the Kazakh Elena Rybakina (10th).
More aggressive and consistent, Sabalenka controlled the game without batting an eyelid, which started more than half an hour late because the referee’s microphone was not working to make announcements. However, she said she was disturbed by this incident.
“For a second I thought ‘oops, something’s wrong today.’ Then I said to myself that these things can happen, and it does not matter. I just need to calm down and relax. I’m glad it didn’t really affect my game,” she said at a press conference.
The Belarusian broke three times in the first set, showing no mercy in return on Sakkari’s second serves, with 11 points gained from 14 played.
The slugging fight continued with the same results in the second set, Sabalenka continuing to manhandle the 27-year-old Greek, who appeared somewhat borrowed. Perhaps this is due to the fact that she had already spent more than twice as long as her rival on the courts, to reach the last four.
She, who was aiming for a second consecutive final in the Californian desert, resisted by breaking to come back to 2-2, when she missed an opportunity to resume the service of Sabalenka, somewhat on the back. But the latter is another player now, who no longer cracks so easily at the slightest annoyance.
“In the past, I’ve lost so many games like that, on just some stupid mistakes. I told myself that it was okay to make these mistakes, that I was not a robot, that I could miss these shots. That’s how I was able to keep fighting,” she explained.
Sabalenka immediately pulled herself together and was able to rely on a solid first ball to win her bet and then escape for good.
“Maria is a great player, when you play her you know it will be difficult, so I’m very happy with this win,” the Belarusian said.
Since his first major title in January in Melbourne, maximum confidence has been in Sabalenka, who has lost only one match in 18 played in 2023.
“I feel great on the court right now, but I also understand that it won’t always be the same. That’s why I keep working hard, making sure that on the days when things don’t go my way, there’s no problem. But, yeah, it’s great to be one of the top players,” she said.
She, who had never passed the 8th in Indian Wells, can still confirm this status on Sunday. “This tournament feels like a Grand Slam, I really want to win it,” she concluded.
Very impressive, Elena Rybakina, 10th in the world and winner at Wimbledon last year, qualified for the Indian Wells WTA 1000 final, beating 6-2, 6-2 the world No. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek.
The first Kazakh to reach this stage of a tournament in this category just below the Grand Slams, the 23-year-old player will face Aryna Sabalenka (2nd), who dismissed without flinching 6-2, 6-3 the Greek Maria Sakkari (7th ).
This poster will be a reproduction of the Australian Open final, won in January by the 24-year-old Belarusian who won her first Major there.
On her way to Melbourne, she created a sensation by eliminating Swiatek in the round of 16, while the Polish was the big favorite after a year 2022 where she had often crushed the competition, as evidenced by her two coronations at Roland-Garros and at the US Open.
For their reunion, Rybakina brilliantly and unquestioningly confirmed this ascendancy taken, while Swiatek had nevertheless shown his determination to set the record straight the day before by saying he was “100% ready” for this meeting.
“I’m very proud of my performance, I played very well today and I didn’t necessarily expect it after the previous match (hardly won in three sets against the Czech Karolina Muchova, editor’s note). I delivered one of my best games this season, “she reacted hotly.
She shattered Swiatek’s double dream, which only Martina Navratilova achieved in 1990-1991, being dominating from start to finish and in all areas. The Kazakh relied in particular on a terribly effective first ball (82% of points won, 7 aces) and on a return that was just as effective (57% of points won).
Relentless, she converted all five break points she got and erased the first three obtained by her opponent, who avoided the humiliation of a “donut” (a 6-0) by taking finally the service of her rival at 5-0. It was only to delay the deadline, because Rybakina was still in a hurry to finish, which she did in 1:16.
Swiatek has never entered the game, and never looked so helpless on a court.
As for Rybakina, she knows that she will have to maintain this stratospheric level of play to win Sunday against Sabalenka, who continues the demonstrations of force and leads 4-0 in their confrontations.
“If I play like today, I will have more chances,” said the Kazakh.