Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka has cruised into the Indian Wells Open final, defeating seventh-seed Maria Sakkari 6-2 6-3 on Friday, local time.
Sabalenka will meet Elena Rybakina in the final, who fired seven aces on her way to routing top-ranked Iga Swiatek in a shock 6-2 6-2 victory at the semi-final Indian Wells Open.
“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 per cent of her first serve points. Rybakina also beat the Polish star at the Australian Open in January on her way to finishing runner-up.
Swiatek had won 10 straight matches in the desert until being stopped on Friday.
“I really played well today, it was a really nice atmosphere tonight,” Rybakina said in her on-court interview.
“I didn’t expect I would play that well today. I had nothing to lose, I just wanted to enjoy. I think it was one of my best matches this season.”
Sabalenka, the Australian Open champion, improved to 17-1 this year.
Sabalenka took control against the seventh-seeded Sakkari from the start.
She attacked Sakkari’s second serve, winning 20 of 26 points off it. Sakkari, runner-up in last year’s final, fell to 3-5 in her career against Sabalenka.
Sakkari reached the semi-finals by rallying from a set down three times and going 4-0 in deciding sets.
But Sabalenka was too dominant. She won the final three games, including two services, to take 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 final five games to close out the match in 1 1/2 hours.
“Just super happy right now,” Sabalenka said on court. “Maria’s such a great player and I knew it was going to be tough.”
Rybakina will be out for revenge when she faces Sabalenka, who defeated her in the Australian Open final in January. The Belarusian leads 4-0 in their head-to-head.
“It was really close, we had so many battles and so far I’m losing, but hopefully that will change,” Rybakina said.