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Swiatek, Sakkari to duel in desert again

World number one Iga Swiatek belts a forehand on the way to her semi-final victory over Marta Kostyuk in the ATP-WTA Indian Wells Masters (Frederic J. BROWN)
World number one Iga Swiatek belts a forehand on the way to her semi-final victory over Marta Kostyuk in the ATP-WTA Indian Wells Masters (Frederic J. BROWN)

World number one Iga Swiatek will take on resurgent Maria Sakkari in the Indian Wells women's final on Sunday aiming to repeat her 2022 title triumph over the Greek.

Swiatek has been a dominant force since then, running her tally of Grand Slam titles to four and rarely surrendering the number one world ranking she first claimed in April of 2022.

Meanwhile, Sakkari has struggled to find consistency, but with new coach David Witt in her corner she believes she is turning things around.

"We always say in tennis one day can change everything, but a month ago I was in Abu Dhabi, I couldn't hit a ball over the net, and now I'm just here in one of the biggest tournaments playing another final," Sakkari said after clawing out a three-set semi-final victory over reigning US Open champion Coco Gauff.

"It's just that, you know, those are lessons and those are things that you have to just accept the more you're on the tour that you're going to have some bad times, and then things can really change in a week."

Sakkari, now ranked ninth in the world, arrives in the final battle-tested.

Although she squandered three match points in the second set of her rain-disrupted match against Gauff, she was able to pull away late and give herself a shot at a third WTA title and her first since the Guadalajara 1000 in September.

"I'm very proud of myself that I kept my nerves," Sakkari said. "And then I just fought hard in that third set."

Swiatek, in contrast, has not dropped a set in a run to the final that included a 6-4, 6-0 third-round victory over Czech Linda Noskova -- who unceremoniously dumped Swiatek out of the third round of the Australian Open earlier this year.

Swiatek has rebounded nicely from that disappointment, winning the title in Doha before reaching the semi-finals in Dubai in February.

"I have all positive vibes," Swiatek said after racing past Ukraine's Marta Kostyuk 6-2, 6-1 in the semi-finals.

Sakkari acknowledged that the fact she has won three of her five meetings with Swiatek is of little note, with all three of her wins coming before Swiatek had established herself as the game's top player.

Swiatek won both of their meetings in 2022, beating Sakkari in the semi-finals at Doha before a convincing 6-4 6-1 victory in the Indian Wells final.

"It's actually pretty crazy that last time we played was two years ago," Sakkari said. "I would say we are very different two years ago both of us.

"Having that (head-to-head) lead doesn't really mean anything, because she's the best player right now in the world," Sakkari added.

"I'm just going to, you know, try and keep that lead and stay two wins ahead of her, but it's just going to be very, very tricky."

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