WTA

Rybakina downs Sabalenka to claim Indian Wells Open title

By Sports Desk March 19, 2023

Elena Rybakina gained a measure of revenge for her Australia Open final defeat as she beat Aryna Sabalenka to claim the Indian Wells Open title.

Rybakina lost 4-6 6-3 6-4 to Sabalenka in Melbourne in January, but the world number 10, who will move up three places in the WTA rankings now, came out on top 7-6 (13-11) 6-4 on Sunday to clinch her first triumph at a WTA 1000 tournament.

It marks a fourth singles title of Rybakina's career, and her first since her maiden grand slam success at Wimbledon last year. She had not beaten Sabalenka in four previous attempts.

Having defeated Iga Swiatek in the last four, Rybakina is the first player to defeat the world number one and two in the semi-finals and final of a tournament since Garbine Muguruza at the 2017 Western & Southern Open.

Ten double faults marred Sabalenka's first set, though the Belarusian initially nosed ahead by claiming the first break of serve in the fifth game – albeit a shanked forehand that flew over Rybakina's head had more than a touch of fortune about it.

Rybakina broke back but saw a set point go begging at 6-5 up. A remarkable tussle followed in the tie-break, Sabalenka earning a set point with a sublime winner before a wild double-fault and a rash backhand gifted her opponent a chance.

Yet Rybakina too double-faulted as neither player was able to find the composure needed to get themselves ahead until, at the fifth time of asking, the eventual champion held her nerve.

Perhaps drained by her first-set exploits, Sabalenka – who was evidently emotional when she returned to the court after a short break – offered no resistance as Rybakina broke her with ease in the first game of the second set.

She did make Rybakina fend off two break points, and then saved two herself, in the fourth and fifth games, though a double break saw the Kazakh move to within a game of victory.

Sabalenka's resolve returned, the world number two reeling off eight of the next nine points to drag herself back to 5-4, yet Rybakina gathered herself on her next serve.

A cool forehand teed up match point, which was taken at the first opportunity when Sabalenka clipped a return straight into the net.

Related items

  • Sinner thrashes home favourite Gasquet to make French Open third round Sinner thrashes home favourite Gasquet to make French Open third round

    Jannik Sinner cruised into the French Open third round after making light work of home favourite Richard Gasquet in a straight-sets victory on Wednesday.

    The world number two overcame Christopher Eubanks in his first Roland-Garros meeting and had similar ease against French veteran Gasquet on Court Philippe-Chatrier.

    Having triumphed at the Australian Open in January, Sinner will be dreaming of a second major title after his convincing 6-4 6-2 6-4 success in the French capital.

    Buoyed on with confidence from a straight-sets win against Eubanks on Monday, Sinner stole a decisive break at 3-3 in the first set to undo 37-year-old Gasquet.

    Gasquet, a 16-time ATP Tour champion, struggled to respond after that opening blow, holding his service just twice in a one-sided second set.

    Sinner continued to dictate play from deep on the court, pulling Gasquet apart at will to tee up a routine win in just two hours and 17 minutes.

    Data Debrief: Sinner riding major wave

    Fresh from his major-winning exploits in Australia, Sinner is a remarkable 9-0 in grand slam competition this year.

    The 22-year-old extended to a 12-1 record against players ranked outside the top 10 at Roland-Garros, while he now has 26 wins and just one loss against Frenchmen since August 2020.

  • Swiatek blames wandering mind after ousting Osaka in French Open thriller Swiatek blames wandering mind after ousting Osaka in French Open thriller

    Iga Swiatek acknowledged her mind was not always in Wednesday's match as the world number one survived a French Open scare against Naomi Osaka.

    The three-time Roland-Garros champion appeared set for an early exit on Court Philippe-Chatrier after trailing 4-1 in the deciding set.

    Matters worsened for the Polish tennis star when Osaka mustered a 5-3 lead, but Japan's four-time major winner relinquished a match point with Swiatek on the ropes.

    The defending French Open champion responded in blistering style, eventually triumphing 7-6 (7-1) 1-6 7-5 to reach the third round unscathed.

    After a shock to the system and nearing an early exit, Swiatek said she struggled to focus at times in Paris.

    "For sure I felt for most of the match that I wasn't really here and now," Swiatek said.

    "My mind was flying around sometimes, but when I was really under the biggest pressure I was able to focus more and play better, not thinking about what the score is and that I was really close to losing.

    "I just kept going forward and I hope that my game is going to get better because of that."

    Aged 22 years and 363 days, Swiatek is the third-youngest women's player, after Monica Seles and Steffi Graf, to win 16 consecutive matches at the French Open during the Open Era.

    Victory also marked her 30th win at Roland-Garros, as many as Seles before turning 23.

    Only Graf (47), Sanchez Vicario (39), Gabriela Sabatini (34) and Martina Hingis (31) have registered more wins when under the age of 23 at this event during the Open Era.

    "For sure this match was really intense," Swiatek added in her on-court interview.

    "Much more intense for the second round than I ever expected. Naomi played amazing tennis, with a really loose hand – maybe she's gonna be a clay-court specialist in a while."

    The Pole has also now won 69 of her 70 completed WTA main-draw matches on clay after winning the opening set.

  • Gauff recovers from slow start to overcome Zidansek at Roland Garros Gauff recovers from slow start to overcome Zidansek at Roland Garros

    Coco Gauff booked her place in the French Open third round with another straight-sets victory over Tamara Zidansek.

    The third seed is yet to drop a set at Roland Garros in her opening two matches, but was made to work for her 6-3 6-4 win over the former Roland Garros semi-finalist.

    Zidansek broke in the opening game on the way to a 3-1 lead, but Gauff broke back in game six, and again in game eight on the way to drawing first blood.

    The players exchanged two breaks apiece to leave the set finely poised at 4-4, until the American's crucial break in the ninth game paved the way for victory.

    The 2022 runner-up will play either Dayana Yastremska or Wang Yafan in round three.

    Data Debrief: Gauff matches Evert

    The 20-year-old has now registered 17 match wins at the French Open. That is as many as the great Chris Evert managed before turning 21.

    In fact, only Kathy Rinaldi Stunkel and Mary Joe Fernandez have registered more victories amongst American women before the age of 21.

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.