Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus will battle Russian-born Kazakhstani Elena Rybakina Sunday for the women’s singles title at the BNP Paribas Open in a rematch of this year’s Australian Open final.
Rybakina defeated No. 1 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland in straight sets on Friday, 6-2, 6-2. Sabalenka beat seventh-seeded Maria Sakkari of Greece, 6-2, 6-3, in Friday’s other semifinal.
“Today I was pushing a lot,” Rybakina said Friday. “With Iga, she’s tough, really tough opponent, but when I play this good and everything goes in — because today some moments I played, I would say, on my highest level — there are moments where you can feel, `Okay, I can beat anyone if I always play like this.”’
The 23-year-old Rybakina is currently ranked 10th on the Women’s Tennis Association tour and has won three WTA singles tournaments in her career, including last year’s Wimbledon.
Sabalenka, 24, beat Rybakina in the January’s Australian Open final, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. She is currently ranked No. 2 on the WTA tour, and has won 12 singles titles. She won the doubles title at Indian Wells with Elise Mertens in 2019.
“It’s going to be huge,” Sabalenka said of Sunday’s match. “This tournament feels like a Grand Slam. I really want to hold this trophy as a singles champion.”
Sunday’s women’s final will be followed by the men’s final between Russia’s Daniil Medvedev and Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz.
Alcaraz, the tournament’s top seed and the No. 2-ranked player in the world behind Serbia’s Novak Djokovic, beat Italy’s Jannik Sinner, 7-6, 6-3, on Saturday.
Medvedev, who is seeded fifth in the tournament and is currently No. 6 on the tour, beat American Frances Tiafoe, 7-5, 7-6, in Saturday’s other semifinal.
Djokovic did not play in this year’s tournament because he has not taken the COVID-19 vaccine and is not permitted to enter the United States.
The BNP Paribas Open offers equal prize money for men and women across singles and doubles competitions and has done so since 2012. The singles winners each receive a little more than $1.2 million. The runners-up will receive a little over half that amount.