Elena Rybakina defeated Iga Swiatek in the semifinals of Indian Wells on Friday, 6-2, 6-2, to set up an Australian Open final rematch against Aryna Sabalenka on Sunday at the WTA 1000 event.
Having beaten her in the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open, 6-4, 6-4, Rybakina is just the second player to beat Swiatek twice since she became No. 1 last April. The other player to achieve that feat is Barbora Krejcikova—the Czech beat her in the final of Ostrava last fall and in the final of Dubai just a few weeks ago.
Rybakina’s the first to beat her twice as No. 1 in straight sets, though.
“I really played good today, so thank you so much everybody who came to watch us, it was a really nice atmosphere tonight, and yeah, come to support me on Sunday!” a thrilled Rybakina told the crowd in her on-court interview after the match.
“I would say that I didn’t expect that I was going to play that good today. Yesterday was a really tough match, and I had nothing to lose, I just wanted to come and enjoy, and it clearly went my way.
“I played, I think, one of the best matches of this year, so I’m just really pleased, and hopefully I’m going to play like this on Sunday.”
Rybakina was dialed in from the start of the match, holding at love in the opening game, then breaking Swiatek and holding again for a 3-0 lead. Swiatek held her next two service games to stay within striking distance, but Rybakina caught fire again from 4-2, reeling off the next seven games in a row to build a 6-2, 5-0 lead.
Swiatek held to get on the board in the second set and even fought off two match points to break Rybakina in the next game to close the gap to 5-2, but Rybakina broke one last time to seal the victory.
Rybakina finished with 18 winners to 12 unforced errors, converting all five of her break points. Swiatek, meanwhile, had 9 winners to 17 unforced errors, converting on just one of four break points.
Rybakina is the first player to beat Swiatek twice in straight sets since she became No. 1.
Awaiting Rybakina in the final will be Sabalenka, who defeated Maria Sakkari in straight sets in the first semifinal of the day.
Rybakina has lost to Sabalenka all four times they’ve played, but all four matches have gone to three sets—including a nail-biting 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory for the Belarusian in this year’s Aussie Open final.
“Well, it was a really close match in Australia, and we’ve had so many battles,” Rybakina said of her rivalry with Sabalenka. “For now I’m losing, but hopefully on Sunday it’s going to change.
“If I’m going to play like today, I think I have all the chances.”
Rybakina will be going for the second-biggest title of her career. Her biggest by far was her first Grand Slam title at Wimbledon last year. Her other two tour-level titles came at WTA 250s, one on clay at Bucharest in 2019 and one on hard courts at Hobart in 2020.
“The score isn’t the most important thing here, mostly it’s fun and learning. So I’m happy I played a solid game. There is always something to improve,” she added further.