Ruthless Rybakina takes Indian Wells title over mistake-prone Sabalenka 

Elena Rybakina is the champion of the Indian Wells WTA 1000 after beating Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets on Sunday afternoon. It is Rybakina’s first win over Sabalenka.

Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka, Indian Wells 2023 Elena Rybakina, of Kazakhstan, middle, celebrates after defeating Aryna Sabalenka, of Belarus, right, in the women’s singles final at the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament Sunday, March 19, 2023, in Indian Wells, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)/CAJC128/23078815350301-0//2303192342

In a rematch of the recent Australian Open final, Elena Rybakina turned the tables on Aryna Sabalenka.

Rybakina, who lost to Sabalenka 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 at Melbourne Park, beat the Belarusian for the first time in five tries with a 7-6(11), 6-4 victory in the BNP Paribas Open championship match on Sunday. The Kazakh triumphed after two hours and four minutes.

Double-faults doom Sabalenka in first set

What the opening set lacked in quality of tennis, it made up for in drama. Sabalenka seized an early break, but given her serving woes (10 double-faults in the set) it never looked like she would maintain the advantage. Sure enough, the world No 2 got broken at 4-3. Sabalenka ended up saving a set point on serve at 5-6 to force what proved to be a thrilling tiebreaker.

Both players took turns double-faulting on their own set points. All in all Rybakina had five set points and Sabalenka had two. The 2022 Wimbledon champ finally converted her fifth chance at 12-11 when Sabalenka erred with a long forehand.

Elena Rybalina and Aryna Sabalenka, Indian Wells 2023
Elena Rybalina and Aryna Sabalenka, Indian Wells 2023 | © Mark J. Terrill / AP / SIPA)

Rybakina races to victory

Indian Wells’ No 2 seed could not recover from the disastrous serving performance that cost her the first set. Although she didn’t double-fault once in the opening game of set two, she still found herself broken at love. 

From there it was pretty much all over for Sabalenka. Rybakina raced to a 5-2 lead, so it hardly mattered when she dropped serve on her first attempt to close things out. On the side of the court with the wind at her back at 5-4, the No 10 seed made no mistake.

Rybakina finished with seven aces compared to only two double-faults. Sabalenka did not double-fault a single time in he second set, but she still had six more double-faults (10) than aces (four).

The 23-year-old will climb to seventh in the rankings on Monday heading into the Miami Open. She would be up to No 3 if Wimbledon had awarded ranking points (2,000 for Rybakina) last summer.

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