Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka - Photo courtesy of Alex Bogatyrev on Shutterstock

Second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus will face 10th-seeded Elena Rybakina Sunday for the women’s singles title at the BNP Paribas Open in a rematch of the Australian Open final.

Rybakina, who was born in Russia and now represents Kazakhstan, defeated top-seed Iga Swiatek of Poland, 6-2, 6-2, Friday. 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 10th on the Women’s Tennis Association singles rankings and has won three WTA singles tournaments, including Wimbledon in 2022.

Sabalenka, 24, is 4-0 against Rybakina, including a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory in January’s Australian Open final, their most recent meeting. Sabalenka is second on the WTA singles rankings 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.”

The 1 p.m. women’s final will be followed by the men’s final between Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz and Russian Daniil Medvedev.

A victory would return Alcaraz back to the top of the Association of Tennis Professionals singles rankings, passing Serbian Novak Djokovic. He was ranked first from Sept. 12, 2022-Jan. 29.

Medvedev was a 6-4, 6-1, 6-2 winner over Alcaraz in the second round of Wimbledon in 2021, their only previous meeting.

Alcaraz, the tournament’s top seed, beat 11th-seeded Jannik Sinner of Italy, 7-6, 6-3, on Saturday.

“I’m really happy with the performance today,” said Alcaraz, who has not lost a set in the tournament. “I’m really happy to get through this great match. Jannik obviously is a really great player with great shots.”

The fifth-seeded Medvedev, defeated 14th-seeded American Frances Tiafoe, 7-5, 7-6(4), in Saturday’s other semifinal for his 19th consecutive victory.

“It was a crazy match,” said Medvedev, who is sixth on the ATP singles rankings. “I still feel not stressed but like it’s definitely better to win like 7-5, 6-3, because then you get the energy level down. That’s fine. I know how to go through it, so that’s not a problem.”

Medvedev is seeking to become the first man to win four titles in five weeks since Andy Murray in 2016.

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 will each receive a little more than $1.2 million. The runners-up will receive a little over half that amount.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *