(Indian Wells) Euphoric since her victory at the Australian Open, world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka managed a new show of force to dismiss the Greek Maria Sakkari (7e) and reach the Indian Wells WTA 1000 final on Friday in California. Elena Rybakina, 10e world champion and Wimbledon winner 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 be up against the Polish world no. 1 and defending champion Iga Swiatek or the Kazakh Elena Rybakina (10e).
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 balls, with 11 points won 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 this, 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 am very happy with this victory,” said the Belarusian.
Since his first major title in January in Melbourne, maximum confidence has lived in Sabalenka, who has lost only one match in 18 played in 2023.
“I feel very good on the court at the moment, but I also understand that it will not 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 among the top players,” she said.
She who had never passed the 8e in Indian Wells can still confirm that status as early as Sunday. “This tournament feels like a Grand Slam, I really want to win it,” she concluded.
Rybakina crushes Swiatek
Very impressive, Elena Rybakina, 10e world champion and winner at Wimbledon last year, qualified for the WTA 1000 final in Indian Wells, 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 (2e), who ruled without flinching 6-2, 6-3 the Greek Maria Sakkari (7e).
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 8e in the final, 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 United States Open.
For their reunion, Rybakina has confirmed in a brilliant way and without question this ascendancy taken, while Swiatek had nevertheless displayed 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 (difficultly won in three sets against the Czech Karolina Muchova, editor’s note). I delivered one of my best matches 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 formidably effective first ball (82% of points won, 7 aces) and on a return which was just as effective (57% of points won).
Relentless, she converted the five break points she obtained 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 the 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.