Iga Swiatek is looking to become the first player to defend her Indian Wells title for 32 years and the world number one continued her dominant search for history with a convincing win over Sorana Cirstea. Now Swiatek looks to continued her dominance in California after a disappointing start to the season at the Australian Open. Next for Swiatek is the player that beat her in Melbourne this year, Elena Rybakina after the Kazakh reached another semi-final at a big tournament with a three set win over Karolina Muchova.
Swiatek has crushed the opposition this week having dropped 19 games on her way to the semi-finals as the Pole searches for more history in California this week. After an early exit for her standards in Melbourne, Swiatek has bounced back like a true world number one as she looks to claim her 13th career singles title in California.
Standing in Swiatek’s way is Rybakina who defeated the Pole in Melbourne and keeps delivering when it comes to the big tournaments. After reaching the final at the Australian Open, Rybakina continues to go under the radar and achieve consistently good results as she looks to continue her search to become a top five player.
Speaking after her win over Cirstea, Swiatek admitted that the energy in California is positive and spoke about the experience of defending her title at Indian Wells.
“Honestly, I didn’t experience everything in tennis yet but for sure, this feeling is great,” Swiatek told the Eurosport website.
“From the beginning of the tournament, I felt this positive energy, and the fans are really supportive. It’s not often when you are the defending champion, but I feel like I’m handling it pretty well and I’m just playing my game.”
As for Rybakina she said it was hard to adapt to the slower conditions and admits that her win over Swiatek in Melbourne will have no impact on their semi-final match.
“I didn’t start that well. I was a bit slower than usual. Karolina, she played really well. And then in important moments, I played well,” Rybakina told the WTA website.
“I’m trying not to think about this because it’s different conditions. It also depends a lot how physically I feel. I’m kind of realistic in these things. I know that, of course, if I am going bring my best tomorrow, there is chances that I’m going to win.
“If it’s going to be a bit of a drop like today, maybe in the second set when it was very quick, first three games of the second set, then of course the chances are less just because she’s No.1 and she’s very consistent. So there is not many margin to mistakes, I will say.”
Swiatek will look to use the slower conditions to her advantage as she looks to redirect the ball in deep positions in the court to make Rybakina feel uncomfortable. Meanwhile Rybakina will look to serve to a consistently high standard and dictate the play using her power as well as moving Swiatek out of position by using the angles to force the Pole out wide.
This will be Swiatek’s toughest test yet especially given Rybakina’s confidence on serve at the moment but the Pole should overcome a tight first set and reach the final in straight sets.
Prediction: Swiatek in straight sets.
Aryna Sabalenka  v Maria Sakkari  | H2H: Sabalenka leads 4-3
Aryna Sabalenka has continued her good form from winning the Australian Open into Indian Wells where her win over Coco Gauff proved that she is finding consistency and stability in her game. Now Sabalenka looks to be Swiatek’s biggest challenger as she aims to win another big title this season and continue her aggressive as well as smart tennis. Next for Sabalenka is Maria Sakkari who is into the Indian Wells semi-finals for a second consecutive year after an impressive three set victory over Petra Kvitova.
Sabalenka’s first Grand Slam title in Melbourne has given her confidence as she continues her good form in California. Now the second seed is looking to establish herself as Swiatek’s biggest contender as she continues her consistency and stability in the pressure moments.
The next obstacle for Sabalenka is Sakkari who is into her second consecutive semi-final at Indian Wells after winning all her matches in three sets. The Greek had lost her confidence and form over the last year but the Greek’s recent renaissance has given her hope that she can fulfil her potential and win a big tournament.
After her win over Gauff, Sabalenka said she didn’t think about previous matches against the American and admitted there will be a lot of long rallies against Sakkari.
“I feel a little bit different on the court this year. I feel like I’m a little bit different player,” Sabalenka told the WTA website.
“Yeah, I wasn’t really focusing on the last matches against her. I was focused on myself. I knew if I’m gonna bring my tennis on court today, that I’ll have all of chances to win this match. So super happy that I was able to show my best tennis today.
“I think it’s going to be long rallies because of the court. I think if I’ll be able to bring my best tennis and I will be able to stay focused from the beginning until the end, I think, yeah, I can get this win.”
After her quarter-final win Sakkari opened up about her mental struggles last year and how she managed to turn her form around.
“One of them was San Jose, I just couldn’t be on the court,” Sakkari told the WTA website.
“I wanted, but I couldn’t. Madrid, I was also struggling big time. I’m a human being. I think I’m allowed also to have those weeks. It’s a horrible feeling. But I have to say that the last two matches, I started the match terrible. But then I felt like I couldn’t, but then I found a way to just fight and come back. Which is different than last year, which I’m very happy about.”
Sabalenka will look to continue to serve to a high standard and dictate the tempo of rallies with her baseline power. Sakkari will look to redirect Sabalenka’s power and use the angles to open up the space to hit winners into. This will be a tough match for Sabalenka but her resilience and form under pressure should give her the edge in this entertaining match-up.
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