Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina defeated Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (13/11), 6-4 on Sunday to win the WTA title from Indian Wells and avenge her loss to the Belarusian in the Australian Open final .
Kazakhstan’s Rybakina, world No. 10 who ousted defending champion Iga Swiatek in the semifinals, followed with her first win over second-placed Sabalenka in five career games.
Rybakina, who is expected to rise to seventh in the world, gave Sabalenka only her second defeat this year and denied her a third title after a win in Adelaide that heralded her maiden Grand Slam triumph in Melbourne.
“It’s actually the first time it’s going my way,” Rybakina said as she accepted the trophy, while a smiling Sabalenka leaned toward the mic to interject, “I’ll make sure it’s the last time. “
“We’ll see next time,” laughed Rybakina.
The banter belied another tense battle between the two, who had gone to three sets in all four previous encounters.
Sabalenka held the advantage from the baseline, but faced with intense pressure from Rybakina, the service demons that plagued the Belarusian last year resurfaced and her 10 double faults in the opening frame ultimately proved too much to overcome.
After fending off three break points in a fourth marathon game, she broke Rybakina to gain the first advantage.
But Sabalenka returned the break with a double fault as Rybakina leveled the set to 4-4.
She gave Rybakina a set point with another double fault in game 12, and while the Kazakhstan player couldn’t capitalize, she would eventually do so in the tiebreak.
Sabalenka herself dropped two set points in the tiebreak before her 10th double fault of the set gave Rybakina her sixth set point and clinched it.
Sabalenka, struggling to contain her emotions, was broken to open the second set and that was all Rybakina needed as an opener.
The Moscow-born Kazakh saved two break points to extend her lead to 3-1 and with Sabalenka in survival mode, she ripped a backhand return down the line for a break that put her 5-2 ahead.
Sabalenka wouldn’t go quietly, making Rybakina love and holding the serve with ease with the wind at her back.
But Rybakina finished it off with confidence on her first match point when Sabalenka netted a serve return.
Rybakina has now won her last four games against two top opponents. She beat then No. 2 Ons Jabeur at Wimbledon and has beaten Swiatek twice this year – including a stunning fourth-round upset at the Australian Open.
She is the first Indian Wells WTA champion to defeat both the No. 1 and No. 2 en route to the title.
Source : sports.yahoo.com