March 26, 2023

Elena Rybakina, relentless against world No.1 Iga Swiatek, and Aryna Sabalenka, intractable against Maria Sakkari, will meet in the Indian Wells WTA 1000 final, two months after Belarus’ crown at the Australian Open at the expense of the Kazakh.

The latter, the first from her country to reach this stage of a tournament in this category just below the Grand Slams, will finally try to take revenge, in the Californian desert on Sunday, she who has four losses in as many matches played against to his future adversary.

And if we trust her very impressive performance against Swiatek, defending champion crushed 6-2, 6-2 in barely 1h16, Rybakina has reason to believe in her star. “If I play like today, I think I have every chance,” admitted the Wimbledon winner last year.

“I’m very proud, I played very well today and I didn’t necessarily expect it after yesterday’s difficult victory (won in three sets against the Czech Karolina Muchova, editor’s note). I delivered one of my best matches this season,” added the 10th in the world.

The 23-year-old Kazakh was however dealing with a Polish rival, also revanchist, two months after Melbourne, since she had already dismissed her unceremoniously in the round of 16.

– “Discomfort in the ribs” –

Saying she was determined to set the record straight the day before, Swiatek, who said she was “100% ready” for this meeting, was always one step behind the blows of her opponent, who succeeded in almost everything which she undertook. And if she pleaded “a little discomfort in the ribs” at a press conference, rarely have we seen the winner of Roland-Garros and the US Open so helpless on a court.

Breaking the world No.1’s dream of a double, which only Martina Navratilova achieved in 1990-1991, Rybakina relied in particular on a formidably effective first ball (82% of points won, 7 aces) and on a return to endorsement (57% of points won).

She converted the five break points she obtained and erased three of the four obtained by her opponent, who instantly avoided the humiliation of a “donut” (a 6-0) for only delay the deadline, before folding in 1:16.

Earlier, Sabalenka had outclassed Greece’s Maria Sakkari (7th) 6-2, 6-3 to also reach the final for the first time.

More aggressive and consistent, the 24-year-old Belarusian controlled the match, breaking three times in the first set, mercilessly returning on Sakkari’s second balls, with 11 points won from 14 played.

– “I want to win it” –

The slugging fight continued with the same effects in the second set, Sabalenka continuing to manhandle the 27-year-old Greek (21 winners to 9 in total), who appeared borrowed. Perhaps this is due to the fact that she had already spent more than double the time on the courts than her rival, to reach the last four…

She, who was aiming for a second consecutive final, resisted by breaking to come back to 2-2 and had an opportunity to recover 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 matches like that, on just some stupid mistakes. I told myself that it was okay to make those mistakes, that I was not a robot, that I could miss those beatings. That’s how I was able to keep fighting,” she explained.

Sabalenka has lost just one out of 18 matches played in 2023 since his first major title in January in Melbourne. “I feel very good on the court at the moment, but I also understand that this won’t always be the case. That’s why I keep working hard, making sure that on the days when things don’t go the way I want, there’s no problem. But, yeah, it’s It’s great to be one of the best players,” she smiled.

In Indian Wells, the Belarusian can confirm this status on Sunday. “This tournament is like a Grand Slam, I really want to win it,” she said.

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