Sabalenka fights back to set up Raducanu meeting

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Sabalenka fights back to set up Raducanu meeting

Aryna Sabalenka saved four match points in the third set and needed four match points of her own in the deciding set tie-break to overcome American Peyton Stearns 6-7(2) 6-2 7-6(6) in a thrilling second-round clash at Indian Wells on Saturday.

Stearns was on the brink of the biggest win of her career when she led the reigning two-time Australian Open champion 5-4 40-0 in the third set with most of the 16,000 fans packed into Stadium Court behind her.

In their first head-to-head match, the deciding set proved to be the most dramatic. Serving to win, Stearns could not take advantage of her commanding lead before Sabalenka’s backhand winner and two errors from the American brought her back into the game to break at 5-5.

Stearns responded well, breaking Sabalenka, but fell short again in her serving game to seal the match, taking it to a tie break where the world No 2 eventually sealed the game.

The match, which lasted two hours and 53 minutes, was Sabalenka’s first since winning her Australian Open title January.

“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 (Stearns) was crushing it like crazy,” Sabalenka said.

“I was just like trying to stay in the game and keep fighting for every point.”

The second seed is now set to face 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu in the third round, after she advanced against Dayana Yastremska, who was forced to retire. Raducanu led 4-0 before the Ukrainian had to withdraw.

Daniil Medvedev, who is aiming to win the BNP Paribas Open for the first time, cruised past Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena 6-2 6-3 in his opening match of the tournament.

He will face Sebastian Korda in the third round on Monday.

“It was not an easy match. The rallies are slow here so 1:30 for 6-2, 6-3 is pretty long. But I know how to play well in these long rallies,” Medvedev said.

“I think I had the match under control. He managed to play one very good game at 4-2, but I was like, okay, I just have to continue, and I managed to find a way.”

Gael Monfils produced an upset against eighth seed Hubert Hurkacz, defeating him 6-0, 6-7(5), 6-2. The former world No 6 will next take on 2021 champion Cameron Norrie, who produced a convincing win of his own by eliminating Lorenzo Sonego in straight sets 6-4 6-4.

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