Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka defeated Maria Sakkari 6-2, 6-3 in a stadium court slugfest on Friday to reach the final of the Indian Wells WTA and ATP Masters 1000 hard court tennis tournaments.
World number two Sabalenka, who took her 2023 WTA record to 17-1, recorded her fifth win in eight meetings against the seventh-seeded Greek and set up a second semi-final between world number one and defending champion Inga Swiatek at Wimbledon. Waiting for the winner. Champion Elena Rybakina.
This is a rematch of the Australian Open fourth round match in which Rybakina defeated top seed Swiatek as runner-up.
Sabalenka’s victory ensured that the final would be a match between the defending Grand Slam champions. Swiatek had won both the French and the US Open last year.
“It feels great either way,” Sabalenka said. “I would like to play them both.”
She said she was “very happy” with the win over the player who defeated her in the group stage of the WTA Finals last year.
Playing with supreme confidence, Sabalenka opened with a quick service hold, followed up with two aces and broke Sakkari for a 3–1 lead.
Sakkari made a quick comeback as Sabalenka double faulted on break point. But the Belarusian won the next five games to win the set and take a 2–0 lead in the second.
Sakkari, perhaps trying to do too much in the face of Sabalenka’s powerful groundstrokes, committed three forehand errors to give her triple set points.
He saved two with a service winner and an ace but fired another forehand out of the court on the third.
Sabalenka was rolling, breaking Sakkari again with a blistering backhand serve for a 2-0 lead in the second.
But he gave back the break with a sloppy service game, distracted on one serve by noises from the crowd.
Sakkari then leveled the set, but Sabalenka won three games in a row – saving one break point to make it 3–2.
Sabalenka said she may have let matches get away with her in years past, but now she is playing with a new sense of calm.
“I’ve lost a lot of matches like this in the past by not making some super-smart mistakes,” he said. “I kept reminding myself that it’s okay to make these mistakes, I’m not a robot. I might miss these shots and that’s probably why I kept fighting and trying.”
– Things can happen –
Sakkari had two game points in the sixth game which resulted in four deuces.
She could not convert, and Sabalenka drilled another service return winner for her third break chance of the game, which she seized with a crosscourt forehand.
Sabalenka finished the match with 21 winners to Sakkari’s nine as she denied Sakkari a return to the Indian Wells final.
The match was delayed for more than half an hour due to an audio system failure on the stadium court, affecting the microphone of chair umpire Pierre Bacchi and the sound of the Hawk-Eye automated line calling system used for the entire tournament.
“For a second I was thinking ‘Oops, something’s going wrong today,'” said Sabalenka, who had to wait on the court with her opponent as a solution.
“But then I remind myself that it’s okay. Things like that can happen. I just have to calm myself down and relax and wait until the system fixes itself.”