No.2 seed Aryna Sabalenka continued her spectacular start to the season by defeating No.6 seed Coco Gauff 6-4, 6-0 on Wednesday and becoming the first player into the 2023 BNP Paribas Open semifinals.
Sabalenka, who won her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open earlier this year, improved her 2023 win-loss record to 16-1 with her 64-minute victory over Gauff, the last remaining American in the women’s singles draw in the Californian desert.
Sabalenka will now meet last year's finalist Maria Sakkari in the semifinals, after No.7 seed Sakkari beat No.15 seed Petra Kvitova in three sets in Wednesday's evening quarterfinal.
When the return comes back faster than the serve 😲@SabalenkaA | #TennisParadise pic.twitter.com/3oeXWNJgsT— wta (@WTA) March 15, 2023
By the numbers: Both Sabalenka and Gauff were playing in their first Indian Wells quarterfinal, and it was World No.2 Sabalenka who handled the occasion more successfully. For the first time all season, Sabalenka made it through a match without facing a single break point.
Gauff had previously been a thorn in Sabalenka’s side, with the 19-year-old American coming out on top in three of their four prior meetings, including the last two.
This time around, though, Sabalenka triumphed, hitting 18 winners to Gauff's 12, while also firing 14 fewer unforced errors than Gauff. Sabalenka is now one victory away from tying Caroline Garcia for the most WTA main-draw match-wins this season, with 17.
The winner speaks: "I didn't really think about our previous matches," Sabalenka said afterwards. "I feel a little bit different on the court this year. I feel like I'm a little bit different player. Yeah, I wasn't really focusing on the last matches against her. I was focused on myself.
"I knew if I'm gonna bring my tennis on court today, that I'll have all of chances to win this match. So super happy that I was able to show my best tennis today."
Post-match multitasking 📱🎾@SabalenkaA | #TennisParadise pic.twitter.com/sC65foHJUs— wta (@WTA) March 15, 2023
Tale of the tape: Sabalenka broke Gauff in the first game of the match, kickstarted by a fiery forehand passing winner. Gauff saved the two further break points she faced in the first set -- including a set point at 5-3 -- but she was never able to even reach deuce in a Sabalenka service game as the No.2 seed collected the one-set lead.
Sabalenka started the second set with a break as well, slamming a sturdy service return to take that game at love. Sabalenka cruised home from there, winning all nine of her first-service points in the second set while also going 9-for-11 returning the Gauff second serve in that timeframe.
Next up: Looking ahead to the final four, Sabalenka has a 4-3 edge over Sakkari in their rivalry, but Sakkari has won their last two meetings, in the WTA Finals group stages in both 2021 and 2022.
"It's always tough battles against [Kvitova and Sakkari]," Sabalenka said, before her opponent was determined. "I think it's going to be long rallies because of the court. I think if I'll be able to bring my best tennis and I will be able to stay focused from the beginning until the end, I think, yeah, I can get this win."