Sabalenka saves four match points to win Indian Wells opener

Sabalenka saves four match points to win Indian Wells opener


Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka saved four match points and needed four of her own to earn a 6-7 (2/7), 6-2, 7-6 (8/6) victory over Payton Stearns on Saturday at the Indian Wells Masters.

The world number two was pushed to the limit in her opening match by the American outsider ranked 64th.

The match became a struggle from the start for Sabalenka, who was coming off an opening match loss in Dubai in February.

But she broke Stearns as the American served for the biggest upset of her career leading 5-4 in the third set, and taking a 40-0 lead.

Sabalenka saved one match point with a stinging backhand winner and Stearns began to tighten up, Sabalenka breaking for 5-5.

Stearns would break Sabakenka again but couldn’t serve it out and Sabalenka prevailed in the tiebreaker.

The double Grand Slam winner finally advanced into the third round on her fourth opportunity, letting out a yell of triumph and relief.

“This match will definitely go into the book of craziest matches and the best matches of my career,” she said.

Sabalenka also rolled her ankle during the intense evening struggle but said she will be ready for her next match.

“I was trying (after the injury), I was trying so hard to get to every ball and to put every ball back.

“Now I feel OK, we’ll see tomorrow. But I have a great team, and I’m pretty sure they will take care of it so for the next match I will be ready.”

She added: “I’m super happy that I didn’t give up on that score, and I was really pushing myself hard.

“Even though I didn’t play my best tennis and she was crushing it like crazy, I was trying to stay in the game and keep fighting for every point.”

Sabalenka, runner-up to Elena Rybakina in the California desert last year, booked a third-round meeting with 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu of Britain.

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