Tennis: Rybakina says she reached highest level in rout of Swiatek

Elena Rybakina defeated Iga Swiatek 6-2, 6-2 to set up a final clash with Aryna Sabalenka at Indian Wells. PHOTO: REUTERS

INDIAN WELLS – Elena Rybakina said she showed glimpses of her best form during her dominant win over world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the Indian Wells semi-finals on Friday, adding that she feels she can beat anyone by maintaining that level.

The world No. 10 thrashed holder Swiatek 6-2, 6-2 to set up a final clash with Aryna Sabalenka, with the Kazakh saying that her aggressive style and booming serve made all the difference in the match.

“Today I was pushing a lot. Overall, some players it’s more difficult to play against,” said Wimbledon champion Rybakina, who won 82 per cent of her first-serve points.

“With Iga, she’s a tough opponent, but when I play like this and everything goes in... Today, in some moments, I played at my highest level. There are moments you feel, ‘OK, I can beat anyone if I always play like this’.

“It’s the goal, but you never feel amazing and perfect every match. Today it was really good from me.”

The Russian-born 23-year-old also said she was reaping the rewards of the hard work she had put in over the years.

“I think I’ve been improving in these four years on tour. It’s just everything coming together – the experience, the team became bigger and I’m working a lot on fitness,” she said.

“Just getting stronger a bit physically and just the work we did for the past four years. It’s showing now on the court and with my results.”

Rybakina will look to beat Sabalenka for the first time in their fifth meeting on Sunday, after losing to the Belarusian in the Australian Open final in January.

“It’s not going to be an easy match. It’s in these clutch moments that I need to play better. Hopefully now it’s going to change the score between us,” she said.

World No. 2 Sabalenka overpowered Greece’s Maria Sakkari 6-2, 6-3 in their semi-final. The Melbourne Park champion was not at her best but maintained her composure even when her old nemesis – the double fault – reared its ugly head on a sunny day in the southern California desert.

“In the past I lost so many matches like that after a few ‘not super smart’ mistakes,” said Sabalenka.

“I was reminding myself that it is okay to make mistakes. I’m not a robot, I’m a human. I can miss those shots, and probably that’s why I was able to keep fighting and keep trying.”

The men’s last-four clashes – Daniil Medvedev took on Frances Tiafoe, and Carlos Alcaraz faced Jannik Sinner – were played on Saturday after press time.

Separately, Novak Djokovic will miss this week’s Miami Open after the Serb was denied an exemption that would have allowed him to enter the United States despite not being vaccinated against Covid-19, tournament director James Blake confirmed on Friday.

“We’re one of the premier tournaments in the world, we’d like to have the best players that can play. We did all that we could. We tried to talk to the government, but that’s out of our hands,” he said. REUTERS, AFP

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