No successful back-to-back title defense since 1991: Elena Rybakina aims for rare Indian Wells feat

Saturday, 02 March 2024 at 21:30
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Defending champion of Indian Wells, Elena Rybakina, could achieve a feat that hasn't occurred in the last 30 years. The world No. 4 will be one of the favorites in the California desert, where no player has successfully defended the title since 1991.
Rybakina has two titles in 2024 and a record of 17-3, with more victories than any other player this year. Only Iga Swiatek (14-2) and Jelena Ostapenko (16-4) come close to Rybakina's impressive campaign, and she ranks second in the WTA Race despite an early exit in the Australian Open's second round.

wIncredible campaign in 2023

Undoubtedly, Rybakina's journey at the 2023 Indian Wells was more than challenging to secure her first WTA 1000 title. Along the way, she faced former champions Paula Badosa and Iga Swiatek (the reigning No. 1 at that time). In the final, she overcame Aryna Sabalenka, seeking redemption from the Australian Open, where she had been defeated by the Belarusian in the title match a few weeks earlier.
The 2022 Wimbledon champion was also the standout player of last year's Sunshine Double, reaching the final of the Miami Open, although she fell to Petra Kvitova (who won't be present this year due to her pregnancy).

Rybakina's quest to repeat Indian Wells glory

Only once has a female player successfully defended the Indian Wells title consecutively, and that feat belongs to the legendary Martina Navratilova in 1991. This accomplishment occurred in the early years of the tournament, with victories over Helena Sukova (1990) and Monica Seles (1991).
While consecutive victories are rare, several players have claimed the Indian Wells title twice. Notable names on this list include Mary Joe Fernandez, Lindsay Davenport, Serena Williams, Kim Clijsters, Daniela Hantuchova, Maria Sharapova, and the most recent addition, Victoria Azarenka (2016).
Nevertheless, Rybakina faces a formidable challenge in her quest. She currently trails the world No. 3, Coco Gauff, by a mere 120 points, keeping the competition intense. However, she remains distant from the current leaders, Sabalenka and Swiatek, adding to the complexity of her mission.

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