Rybakina beats Sabalenka to claim Indian Wells title
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[March 20, 2023]
(Reuters) -Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina beat a misfiring
Aryna Sabalenka 7-6(11) 6-4 on Sunday to claim the Indian Wells title
and avenge her loss to the Belarusian in the Australian Open final.
Rybakina, playing in her first WTA 1000 final, saved three set points in
the opening frame and was never really tested in the second where she
cruised to a victory that will send her to a career-high seventh in the
Mar 19, 2023; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Elena
Rybakina (KAZ) holds the championship trophy after defeating Aryna
Sabalenka in the women’s final of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian
Wells Tennis Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY
The triumph in the California desert was the
fourth career WTA singles title for the 23-year-old Rybakina and
her first against second seed Sabalenka in five attempts.
"It's actually the first time it went my way (against her) so
we'll see, hopefully we are going to play many more finals,"
Rybakina said during the trophy presentation before Sabalenka
stepped in and joked: "I'll make sure it was the last one."
Rybakina, who beat defending champion and world number one Iga
Swiatek to reach the final, dropped serve when Sabalenka landed
a forehand lob just inside the baseline for a 3-2 lead followed
by a routine hold that gave the Belarusian control.
But the Kazakh 10th seed did not back down and immediately held
at love to steady the ship before Sabalenka handed back the
break with an untimely double fault that leveled the match at
4-4 from where the duo remained on serve to force a tiebreaker.
Despite her struggles, Sabalenka had her chances during the
opening frame where she squandered three set point chances but
also turned aside five set points.
Sabalenka's 10th double fault gave Rybakina her sixth set point
of the opening frame at 12-11 in the tiebreak from where she
closed it out when the Belarusian sent a forehand long.
Rybakina used a pair of breaks to bulldoze her way to a 5-2 lead
in the second set before Sabalenka produced a sizzling stretch
to get within 5-4.
But Rybakina sensed her opportunity and closed the deal on her
first championship point opportunity when Sabalenka sent a
service return into the net.
"I didn't serve that well, and it started to get a little bit
more windy and I didn't adjust my serve," said Sabalenka. "Of
course I felt like she stepped in a little bit and started
playing a little bit more aggressive."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar
and Chris Reese)
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