Elena Rybakina defeated Aryna Sabalenka 7-6 (13-11), 6-4 on Sunday to win her maiden WTA 1000 title at the Indian Wells. Rybakina played strong to hand the world’s second-ranked player just her second loss this year. The reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina carried the momentum from her straight-set semifinal upset of the World’s no.1 Iga Swiatek into the summit clash. With a memorable victory, Rybakina avenged her defeat in the Australian Open final and outclassed Sabalenka for the first time in five career meetings. In January, Belarusian Sabalenka beat Rybakina in three sets in Melbourne to win her first Grand Slam.
For the first time in their rivalry, the match did not go three sets. Sabalenka went the distance to beat the 23-year-old Kazakh player in the Australian Open final, where she fired 17 aces and rallied from a set down to win her first Grand Slam title. This time, Rybakina had seven aces while the 24-year-old Belarusian committed 10 double faults. Sabalenka won just 11 of 35 second-serve points. Rybakina improved her match record to 16-4 this season. On the other hand, Sabalenka fell to 17-2.
Sabalenka had dropped just one set en route to the Indian Wells final but under pressure from 10th seed Rybakina, the serving issues that plagued her last year returned as she hit 10 double faults in the first set alone. Rybakina, who beat defending champion Swiatek in the semi-finals, needed six set points, four of which were on her own serve and the same helped her to edge ahead in a lengthy tie-break.
The second set proved a considerably quicker affair, as Rybakina broke Sabalenka’s serve to love in the first game. After both players saw two break points apiece go begging, Rybakina went a double break up at 5-2 only for her opponent to break back in the next game. But she served out the victory on her first match point and will move up to a career-high position of No.7 in the world rankings.
Meanwhile, top-seed Carlos Alcaraz snapped Daniil Medvedev’s 19-match win streak with a 6-3, 6-2 rout in the Indian Wells men’s singles final on Sunday. This title victory will see the 19-year-old Spaniard leapfrog Novak Djokovic and return to World No.1 in the rankings. Russian fifth seed Medvedev, who was looking to add another title to the ones he collected in Rotterdam, Doha, and Dubai over the last month, had no answer for Alcaraz’s brilliance.