Rybakina takes aim at Sabalenka again in Indian Wells final

Yelena Rybakina of Kazakhstan will take on Arina Sobolenko on Sunday when they fight for the title at Indian Wells in a rematch of the Australian Open final won by Belarus.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina lost all four of her career to Sobolenko, but all four went the distance, and Sobolenko closed solidly in a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win in Melbourne to claim her first Grand Slam title.

Rybakina, ranked 10th in the world, knows exactly what problem she is facing and what she needs to do to solve it.

“The last four times I lost, and it was always three sets,” she said. “I think it’s just better to play those big moments and keep the pitch because I think a few times it was just because of one break.

“It’s not going to be an easy game and at times like this I just need to play better.”

As in Melbourne, Rybakina reached the final after an upset victory over world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.

Swiatek, whose eight titles in 2022 included the French and US Opens, was the reigning Indian Wells champion, but Rybakina beat her convincingly, winning the majority of Swiatek’s first serve points by converting all five of her breaks.

“I played at the highest level,” Rybakina said. “There are times when you feel, well, I can beat anyone if I always play like this.”

However, she must face a supremely confident foe in Sobolenko, who has banished the demons of 2022 and is rising in power.

Sobolenko, who started her year with a title in Adelaide, is 17-1 this season, her only loss of a match came in the quarter-finals in Dubai.

Determined to stand firm on his feet, the self-confident player who sounds overconfident admits that he currently considers himself to be “one of the best” players in the world.

She doesn’t take it for granted.

“Now I feel very good on the court, but I also understand that it won’t be like this all the time,” Sabolenko said after beating Maria Sakkari 6-2, 6-3 in the semi-finals.

“That’s why I keep working hard to make sure that on the days when things go wrong, I can still compete and get those victories.

“I just want to keep working, I just want to keep playing my best tennis and keep winning.”

That she has been able to perform at her best so often this year is the result of solving problems with her serve and learning to control her emotions on the court.

“Because last year I struggled a lot with my serve and with so many things that happened last year, I will say that I went through hell,” Sabalenko said.

“I think that’s why I can be more relaxed on the court. I can control myself better and understand that this is just tennis.”



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