INDIAN WELLS, Calif. -- World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka insists that her loss to Elena Rybakina in the BNP Paribas Open final will only make her stronger. On Sunday, Sabalenka took just her second loss of the season after Rybakina captured her first WTA 1000 title with a 7-6(11), 6-4 at Indian Wells.
Sabalenka led by a break at 4-2 in the opening and held two set points in the tiebreak, but 10 double faults in the opening set sparked her undoing.
"I had a lot of opportunities in the first set and I didn't use it, which is totally fine," Sabalenka said. "I feel like it's a small reminder that, no, you still have to work on so many things. There will be days when not everything will go your way, so you still have to work hard and you still have to fight a lot."
"I'll make sure it was the last one...!" 🤣— wta (@WTA) March 19, 2023
Fighting talk from @SabalenkaA 😝 #TennisParadise pic.twitter.com/9ADEFjMYfq
Sabalenka acknowledged that her double faults on key points late in the first set recalled her serving struggles from last season.
"There will be some days when old habits will come back and you just have to work through it," Sabalenka said. "Not every match will be going your way and you will be serving perfectly. So it is just kind of a reminder that that's OK to still be struggling with something. That's okay to don't play your best. Keep fighting and keep using the rest of the weapons.
"Today I would say that I was super disappointed with my serve, so I was back to old habits. I was a little bit overreacting to things and I wasn't there in the first two games in the second set."
The loss is Sabalenka's first in a WTA 1000 final, having gone 4-0 in her previous appearances. But the loss won't linger too long for the Australian Open champion, who continues to sit atop the WTA Race to the Finals leaderboard, ahead of Rybakina and World No.1 Iga Swiatek.
"It's going to be in my head till tomorrow because there were so many points where I could play better and where I could handle myself better, especially serving for the set," Sabalenka said. "There is no pressure on me. Why would I go for bigger serves? Just serve to the body and just play the point, you know? I was overhitting.
"This is just another lesson, and that's OK. I have nothing against that. I will learn. I will come back better."
Sabalenka will head to the Miami Open next week. After a bye in the first round, she will open her tournament against either Sloane Stephens or Shelby Rogers.