Looking to join Iga Swiatek and Simona Halep in the semi-finals at Indian Wells, Maria Sakkari and Elena Rybakina face off in the opening match of Thursday’s schedule. Sakkari is a much improved player from two years ago when the two met for the only time – Rybakina winning a three setter in St Petersburg.
Sakkari’s top 10 place is in large part due to her consistency in going deeper in tournaments rather than winning them. A win here would make it three semi finals or better in a row after a final in St Petersburg and a semi final in Doha. She moved to 14-4 on the year after an early injury for Daria Saville saw her retire down 1-4.
Rybakina started the season in good shape with an Adelaide final but has had a tough time since then – having to withdraw from two tournaments and retiring in another since. Injury was followed by a COVID diagnosis left her struggling but it looks like she is back in much better shape. She has been impressive through three matches so far, dropping serve just once. That was in her last match against Viktorija Golubic, whom she eventually saw off 7-5 6-2.
“I’m used to going deep. Now I feel like it’s not something new for me. I would say from last year I started feeling like it doesn’t feel very tiring to go deep into a tournament. […] I think I just feel very comfortable now being in the later stages of the tournament.” Sakkari said after making it to the last 8 once again.
Rybakina is more than capable of winning but will need to keep it very clean on a slower court that may hinder her against a much better mover and defender like Sakkari. Last year’s champion Paula Badosa is favoured to be up for the winner of this one but with a 0-3 record against Veronika Kudermetova, nothing can be taken for granted.
Prediction – Maria Sakkari in straight sets