Rybakina tops No. 2 Sabalenka, wins Indian Wells

Tennis

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Elena Rybakina defeated Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (11), 6-4 on Sunday to win the BNP Paribas Open and hand the world’s second-ranked player just her second loss this year.

Rybakina carried the momentum from her straight-set semifinal upset of top-ranked Iga Swiatek into the final and beat Sabalenka for the first time in five career meetings.

For the first time in their budding rivalry, the match didn’t go three sets. Sabalenka went the distance to beat Rybakina in the Australian Open final in January. In that match, Sabalenka fired 17 aces and rallied from a set down to win her first Grand Slam title.

This time, Rybakina had seven aces and Sabalenka committed 10 double faults.

Rybakina, playing in her first WTA 1000 final, dropped serve in the opening set when Sabalenka landed a forehand lob just inside the baseline for a 3-2 lead, followed by a routine hold that gave Sabalenka control. But Rybakina refused to back down and immediately held at love to steady the ship before Sabalenka handed back the break with an untimely double fault that levelled the match at 4-4.

From there, the duo remained on serve to force a first-set tiebreaker, which Rybakina won to remain perfect in tiebreaks this year.

Rybakina opened the second set with a break before Sabalenka finally settled into her game. But Rybakina sensed her chance and quickly closed the deal on her first championship point when her opponent sent a service return into the net.

“It was an incredible two weeks here,” the 10th-seeded Rybakina said on court following the trophy presentation. “It was an amazing atmosphere. I want to congratulate Aryna, as well, amazing results this week.”

Hearing that, Sabalenka stuck her tongue out at Rybakina, the reigning Wimbledon champion.

“This was the first time it went my way,” Rybakina responded.

With that, Rybakina leaned into the microphone and said, “I’ll make sure it’s the last time.”

It was a fun moment of levity after another intense match between the women.

“It’s a pleasure to win against you,” Rybakina said.

Rybakina improved her match record to 16-4 this year; Sabalenka fell to 17-2.

With the win, Rybakina moves up to No. 7 in the world rankings.

Information from The Associated Press, Reuters and ESPN’s Alyssa Roenigk was included in this report.

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