Tennis: Swiatek sets Rybakina rematch at Indian Wells

Iga Swiatek returns a shot to Sorana Cirstea en route to her 6-2, 6-3 win at Indian Wells, California on March 16, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

INDIAN WELLS – World No. 1 Iga Swiatek is ready for an Indian Wells grudge semi-final against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina after she swept past Sorana Cirstea 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday.

Rybakina, who stunned Swiatek in the fourth round of the Australian Open before falling to Aryna Sabalenka in the final, outlasted Karolina Muchova 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-4.

“She’s playing really well and in semi-finals, you always are going to play against the top players, so I’ll be ready,” Swiatek said of facing the Kazakh.

“Last time we played was in Australia. Totally different conditions. So I’ll just prepare the same as before any other match and I’ll do 100 per cent.”

Romania’s Cirstea, ranked 83rd in the world and coming off an impressive fourth-round win over the fifth-ranked Caroline Garcia, did all she could to stick with Swiatek early on.

She recovered an early break and fended off a break point as she levelled the opening set at 2-2.

But Swiatek, adjusting to the warm day conditions after two straight night matches, won the next eight games.

Down 4-0 in the second, Cirstea clawed one back and held serve for 4-2 in a spirited display before Swiatek closed it out.

“The most important thing for me is that I came back in the second set to finish it properly,” Swiatek added.

In the men’s draw, Carlos Alcaraz said he wanted to emulate Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic by winning titles straight after coming back from injury, with the world No. 2 closing in on the Indian Wells crown with his 6-4, 6-4 win over Felix Auger-Aliassime.

In February, the Spaniard claimed his first title since the 2022 US Open by winning in Buenos Aires – his first tournament after more than three months out due to abdominal and hamstring injuries.

He beat Canadian Auger-Aliassime to reach the semi-finals of Indian Wells on Thursday, weeks after pulling out of an ATP 500 event in Acapulco with a strained hamstring.

“I look to the big players, Djokovic or Rafa, when they are coming from an injury and they have a great percentage to win the tournament,” said the 19-year-old, who next faces Italian Jannik Sinner.

“They motivated me to play a good game after an injury. I was surprised when I won Buenos Aires, but now I’m not surprised.” AFP, REUTERS

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