Indian Wells: Aryna Sabalenka sets up Emma Raducanu matchup with wild comeback

Sabalenka saved four match points en route to setting up a meeting against Raducanu in Indian Wells.

by Dzevad Mesic
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Indian Wells: Aryna Sabalenka sets up Emma Raducanu matchup with wild comeback
© Getty Images Sport - Michael Owens

An Aryna Sabalenka and Emma Raducanu match in Indian Wells will be happening after all after the Belarusian managed to pull off a miraculous comeback win over Peyton Stearns. 

In her opening match at this year's Indian Wells, Sabalenka had to work way harder than expected as she second-seeded Belarusian saved four match points before edging out world No. 64 Stearns 6-7 (2) 6-2 7-6 (6) to reach the third round. 

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Michael Owens
 

By surviving a marathon that lasted nearly three hours, Sabalenka set up a highly-anticipated matchup against 2021 US Open champion Raducanu. Earlier in the day, Raducanu led 4-0 against Dayana Yastremska when stomach issues forced the Ukrainian to retire from the match. 

On Monday, Sabalenka, 25, and 21-year-old Raducanu will be clashing against each other for the first time.

Emma Raducanu
Emma Raducanu© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

How Sabalenka beat Stearns?

In the first set, Stearns was twice up by a break and even had a chance to serve out for the opener when leading 5-3 but Sabalenka both times recovered and ultimately forced a tie-break. But missing out on a couple of chances to finish the first set earlier didn't impact Stearns, who still won the opener after dominating the first-set tie-break.

Down by a set, Sabalenka bounced back by breaking Stearns in the fourth and eighth games en route to routinely winning the second set and forcing a decider.

The third set was relatively calm until the ninth game, when Stearns earned the first break of the set for a 5-4 lead and a chance to serve out for the match. Facing a loss, Sabalenka found herself inches away from the loss after Stearns clinched three consecutive match points in the 10th game - but the Belarusian saved all of those three match points and one more match point in the same to tie the third set to five games apiece. 

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Michael Owens
 

But that wasn't the end of the drama as Stearns broke Sabalenka again to go 6-5 up and give herself another chance to serve out for an upset win. But again, the second seed didn't allow that to happen as she broke back Stearns to send the third set into a third break.

In the third-set tie-break, Sabalenka earned three consecutive match points at 6-3 but then failed to convert any of those three match points. But Sabalenka managed to remain calm - clinch her fourth match point at 7-6 - and realize it to edge out Stearns and continue her Indian Wells campaign.

Indian Wells Aryna Sabalenka Emma Raducanu
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