INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Elena Rybakina shot seven aces on Friday as she defeated top-seeded Iga Swiatek 6-2, 6-2 to advance to the final of the BNP Paribas Open.
“I’m pretty sad that I lost,” said Swiatek.
Rybakina will face off against second-placed 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 keep this trophy as an individual champion.”
It took Rybakina just 76 minutes to finish off Swiatek, the defending champion. She gained 82% of her first serve points while Swiatek only managed 42%. Rybakina also beat the Polish star on her way to second place at the Australian Open in January.
“I didn’t expect to play so well today,” Rybakina said. “I had nothing to lose, I just wanted to come and enjoy. I played one of the best matches this year.”
Swiatek had won 10 straight matches in the desert until she was stopped by Rybakina’s powerful groundstrokes, which repeatedly rushed Swiatek and forced her to make uncharacteristic errors.
Swiatek lost the first set with a double fault. She then fell 5-0 in the second before rallying to win two games.
“I feel like I can play great tennis, even against players who serve pretty fast and everything,” she said. “But for sure the last couple of games against Elena haven’t been perfect for me.”
Swiatek said her rib bothered her during the game.
“I still have to do some tests and see what’s going on. I don’t know yet,” she said, adding that for now she plans to play in Miami next week.
Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion, improved to 17-1 this year.
She leads Rybakina 4-0 in her career meetings, but all four went into a deciding set, including in the final Down Under.
“It was a really close game in Australia,” Rybakina said on the pitch. “If I play like today, I think I have every chance.”
Sabalenka took control from the start against seventh-seeded Sakkari. She attacked the Greek’s second serve and won 20 of 26 points from it. Sakkari, runner-up in last year’s final, fell 5-3 in her career against Sabalenka.
Sakkari reached the semifinals by recovering from a set down three times and going 4-0 in the deciding sets.
But Sabalenka was too dominant. She won the last three games, including two breaks of serve, and took the first set 6-2.
Sabalenka led 2-0 in the second round before Sakkari equaled 2-0. From there, Sabalenka won four of their last five games to finish the game in 1 1/2 hours.
“Just super happy right now,” said Sabalenka on the pitch. “Maria is such a great player and I knew it was going to be tough.”
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Source : sports.yahoo.com