Tennis: Rybakina beats Sabalenka to win Indian Wells WTA title


Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan celebrates with the winners trophy after her win over Aryna Sabalenka in the final during the BNP Paribas Open on March 19, 2023 in Indian Wells, California.  (Getty Images via AFP)

INDIAN WELLS, United States – Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina edged Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (13/11), 6-4 on Sunday to win the Indian Wells WTA title and avenge her loss to the Belarusian in the Australian Open final.

Kazakhstan’s Rybakina, the world number 10 who ousted top-ranked defending champion Iga Swiatek in the semi-finals, followed up with her first victory over second-ranked Sabalenka in five career meetings.

While Sabalenka had the edge from the baseline in a hard-fought battle, Rybakina’s fierce pressure saw the serve demons that beset Sabalenka last year resurface.

Her 10 double faults in the opening frame ultimately proved too much to overcome.

After fending off three break points in a marathon fourth game, she broke Rybakina to gain the advantage, but Sabalenka handed back the break with a double fault to close the eighth game.

She gifted Rybakina a set point with another double fault in the 12th game and while the Kazakhstan player couldn’t capitalize, she would do so finally in the tiebreaker.

Unable to convert her own two set points in the decider, Sabalenka’s 10th double fault of the set gave Rybakina her sixth set point and she took it.

Sabalenka, struggling to quell her emotions, was broken to love to open the second set and that was all the opening Rybakina needed.

The Moscow-born Kazakh saved a pair of break points to push her lead to 3-1 and, with Sabalenka in survival mode, she ripped a backhand return up the line for a break that put her ahead 5-2.

Sabalenka wouldn’t go quietly, breaking Rybakina to love and holding serve with ease with the wind at her back.

But Rybakina polished it off with confidence on her first match point when Sabalenka smacked a service return into the net.


Agence France-Presse

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