Sports - March 17, 2023

Aryna Sabalenk beats Maria Sakkari to reach first Indian Wells final

Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari

Aryna Sabalenka has advanced to the final of the Indian Wells WTA and ATP Masters 1000 hard court tennis tournament after defeating Maria Sakkari 6-2, 6-3 in a Stadium Court match on Friday.

This victory brought Sabalenka’s 2023 WTA record to 17-1, and she now awaits the winner of the second semi-final between world number one and defending champion Iga Swiatek and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, setting up a rematch of their Australian Open fourth-round match. Sabalenka’s win also guaranteed that the final would feature a match-up of reigning Grand Slam champions, as Swiatek won both the French and US Opens last year.

Sabalenka expressed her joy over the win, saying, “I would like to play both of them.” She was “super happy” with the victory over Sakkari, a player who defeated her in the WTA Finals group stage last year. Sabalenka played with great confidence, beginning with a quick service hold that featured two aces and breaking Sakkari for a 3-1 lead. Despite Sakkari immediately breaking back, Sabalenka won the next five games to take the set and a 2-0 lead in the second.

Sakkari attempted to respond to Sabalenka’s powerful groundstrokes, but made three forehand errors to give Sabalenka triple set point. Sabalenka won the set after Sakkari saved two set points with a service winner and an ace, but hit another forehand out of the court on the third.

Sabalenka broke Sakkari again with a blistering backhand service return up the line for a 2-0 lead in the second, but gave the break back with a sloppy service game.

However, Sabalenka won three straight games to make it 3-2 after fending off a break point. Despite Sakkari having two game points in a sixth game that went to deuce four times, Sabalenka drilled another service return winner for a third break chance of the game, which she seized with a crosscourt forehand.

Sabalenka finished the match with 21 winners to Sakkari’s nine, and denied Sakkari a return to the Indian Wells final.

The match was delayed for over half an hour due to a malfunction of the audio system on Stadium Court, which affected the microphone of chair umpire Pierre Bacchi and the sound for the Hawk-Eye automatic line calling system used for the entire tournament. Sabalenka remained calm during the delay, saying, “Stuff like that can happen. I just have to kind of calm down myself and relax and wait till they fix the system.”

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