Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina beat a misfiring Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets to win the Indian Wells women’s title and avenge her loss to the Belarusian in the Australian Open final.
Rybakina, playing in her first WTA 1000 final, came back from a break down to grab a tightly-contested first set during which second seed Sabalenka committed 10 double faults – and the Kazakh 10th seed never trailed the rest of the match on her way to a 7-6 (13-11) 6-4 victory.
Rybakina, who beat the defending champion and world No 1 Iga Swiatek to reach the final, dropped serve when Sabalenka landed a forehand lob just inside the baseline for a 3-2 lead, followed by a routine hold that gave the Belarusian control.
But Rybakina refused to back down and immediately held to love to steady the ship before Sabalenka handed back the break with an untimely double fault that levelled the match at 4-4 from where the duo remained on serve to force a tiebreaker.
Despite her struggles, Sabalenka had her chances in the opener but squandered three set points while also turning aside five set points before finally sending a forehand long to give Rybakina control.
Rybakina opened the second set with a break before Sabalenka finally settled into her game but the Kazakh sensed her chance and quickly closed the deal on her first championship point when her opponent sent a service return into the net.
It marks Rybakina’s first win over Sabalenka in five career meetings, with it also the first time in their budding rivalry that the match didn’t go three sets.
Rybakina improved her match record to 16-4 this year, while it was only world No 2 Sabalenka’s second loss this year.