Rybakina hits Sabalenka again in the Indian Wells final
Elina Rybakina of Kazakhstan will come out to turn the tables on Aryna Sabalenka on Sunday when she contests for the Indian Wells title in a rematch of the Australian Open final won by Belarus.
Wimbledon champion Rybakina has lost all four career bouts against Sabalenka – but all four went the distance as Sabalenka shut down solidly 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in Melbourne to claim her first Grand Slam title.
Rybakina, ranked 10th in the world, knows exactly what challenge she faces – and what she must do to meet it.
“I lost the last four times and it was always three sets,” she said. “I think just playing better in these important moments and keeping serve, because I think it’s been a few times because of just one break.
“It won’t be an easy game and it will be in these crucial moments I just need to play better.”
As in Melbourne, Rybakina qualified for the final after upsetting world number one Iga Swiatek.
Swiatek, whose eight titles in 2022 included the French and American Championships, was the defending Indian Wells, but Rybakina outmaneuvered her convincingly, winning the majority of Swiatek’s first serve points as she converted all five break opportunities.
“I played at my highest level,” said Rybakina. “There are moments when you feel like, well, I can beat anyone if I always play like this.”
However, you will be facing a very confident opponent in Sabalenka, who has expelled the demons of 2022 and has gone from strength to strength.
Sabalenka, who opened her year with a title in Adelaide, has been 17-1 this season, her only defeat coming in the quarter-finals in Dubai.
Determined to keep her feet on the ground, the player who feels “confident” makes her voice very cocky admitting that she is “one of the best” players in the world right now.
She doesn’t take it for granted.
“I feel really good on the court now, but I also know that things are not going to be the same all the time,” Sabalenka said after her 6-2, 6-3 victory over Maria Sakkari in the semi-finals.
“That’s why I continue to work so hard, to make sure on those days when things don’t go my way that I can still be competitive and get those wins.
“I just want to keep working, I just want to show my best in tennis and keep winning.”
She has been able to show her best more often this year as a result of solving problems with her serve and learning to control her emotions on the court.
“Because I was struggling a lot last year, with my serving and with a lot of things going on last year, I will say I went through hell,” said Sabalenka.
“I think that’s why I’m able to be a lot calmer on the court. I’m kind of able to control myself better and understand that this is just tennis.”