Rybakina beats Swiatek 6-2, 6-2 to reach Indian Wells final
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Elena Rybakina fired seven aces in the rout of top seeded Iga Swiatek 6-2, 6-2 on Friday to advance to the BNP Paribas Open final.
“I’m pretty sad to have lost,” Swiatek said.
Rybakina will face second seed Aryna Sabalenka, who beat Maria Sakkari 6-2, 6-3, in Sunday’s final in the Southern California desert.
“It’s going to be huge,” said Sabalenka, who won the doubles title in 2019. “This tournament feels like a Grand Slam. I really want to hold this trophy as a singles champion.
Rybakina needed just 76 minutes to finish off Swiatek, the defending champion. She won 82% of her first-serve points, while Swiatek only managed 42%. Rybakina also beat the Polish star at the Australian Open in January to finish second.
“I didn’t expect to play so well today,” said Rybakina. “I had nothing to lose, I just wanted to come and enjoy. I played one of the best games of the year.
Swiatek had won 10 straight matches in the desert until he was stopped by Rybakina’s powerful groundstrokes which repeatedly rushed Swiatek and forced her to make some unusual mistakes.
Swiatek double faulted to lose the first set. Then they trailed 5-0 in the second before rallying to win two games.
“I feel like I can play good tennis even against players who serve pretty fast and everything,” she said. “But of course the last two games against Elena, they weren’t perfect for me.”
Swiatek said her rib bothered her during the game.
“I still have to do some tests and see what happens. I don’t know yet,” she said, adding that for now she plans to play next week in Miami.
Australian Open champion Sabalenka improved to 17-1 this year.
She leads Rybakina 4-0 in their career encounters, but all four have gone to a deciding set, including in the Down Under final.
“It was a very tight game in Australia,” Rybakina said on the pitch. “If I’m going to play like I did today, I think I have every chance.”
Sabalenka took the lead against seventh-seeded Sakkari from the start. She attacked the Greek’s second serve, winning 20 of 26 points. Sakkari, runner-up in last year’s final, fell to 3-5 in her career against Sabalenka.
Sakkari reached the semis by rallying three times to a set and going 4-0 in the deciding sets.
But Sabalenka was too dominant. She won the last three games, including two service breaks, to win the first set, 6-2.
Sabalenka led 2-0 in the second before Sakkari tied it 2-all. From there, Sabalenka won four of the last five games to close the game in 1.5 hours.
“Just super happy right now,” Sabalenka said on the pitch. “Maria is a great player and I knew it was going to be tough.”
AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports