Elena Rybakina knocked out defending champion Iga Swiatek with a 6-2, 6-2 semi-final victory in Indian Wells on Friday to set up a clash against Aryna Sabalenka in the final. Two months after Rybakina knocked out Swiatek from the Australian Open in the fourth round, the Wimbledon champion once again put on an impressive display against the world No.
Rybakina was in control from the start, breaking early to take a 2-0 lead, before clinching the first set when Swiatek produced a double fault on set point. Swiatek tested Rybakina’s serve in the opener of the second set, but the Kazakh held on under pressure and then won the next four games to take a 5-0 lead.
The Pole saved a break point to hold and avoid a break front bagel to further reduce the backlog, but Rybakina broke immediately to extinguish the comeback and secure the victory.
“I played really well today, it was a really good atmosphere tonight,” said Rybakina during his on-court interview. “I didn’t expect to play so well today. I had nothing to lose, I just wanted to enjoy. I think it was one of my best games this season.
Rybakina will be ready for revenge when she faces Sabalenka, who beat her in the Australian Open final in January. The Belarusian leads 4-0 in their head-to-head. “It was really tight, we had so many battles and so far I’m losing, but hopefully that will change,” added Rybakina.
Earlier on Friday, Australian Open champion Sabalenka was not at her best in a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Greece’s Maria Sakkari, but kept her composure even when her old enemy – the double fault – raised his ugly head on a sunny day. in the Southern California desert.
“In the past I’ve lost so many games like this after some not-super-smart mistakes,” Sabalenka said. “I was reminding myself that it’s okay to make mistakes. I’m not a robot, I’m human. I can miss those shots, and that’s probably why I was able to keep going. fight and keep trying.
After the start of the match was delayed over 30 minutes to resolve an audio issue with the electronic line-calling system, Sabalenka scored an ace to start the match.
She broke Sakkari a third time on an errant forehand from Sakkari to capture the first set, but the Belarusian’s frustration began to mount in the second when two double faults gave Sakkari break points at 2-2.
Sabalenka regrouped to hold 3-2 and broke Sakkari in a long two-man game for a 4-2 advantage she wouldn’t give up, leaping on a short serve return on match point and burying the ball with a emphatic reverse. Sabalenka, a first-time runner-up in Indian Wells, will face Wimbledon champion Rybakina for the title on Sunday.