Aryna Sabalenka details what led to shock Indian Wells exit

Sabalenka's Indian Wells run ended with a round-of-16 loss to Emma Navarro.

by Dzevad Mesic
Aryna Sabalenka details what led to shock Indian Wells exit
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Aryna Sabalenka admitted she didn't really feel her best throughout her time in Indian Wells this year and also noted that it probably wasn't caused by the fact that she hadn't gotten much action since the Australian Open. 

On Wednesday, No. 2 seed Sabalenka's Indian Wells run came to an end in the round-of-16 after world No. 22 Emma Navarro upset the two-time Grand Slam champion 6-3 3-6 6-2. 

But even before losing to Navarro, Sabalenka came really close to being bounced in Indian Wells early as world No. 64 Peyton Stearns missed out on four match points during their second-round match. After completing a 6-7 (2) 6-2 7-6 (6) win over Stearns and avoiding a shock loss, the 25-year-old Belarusian described it as "one of the most craziest matches" of her career.

After surviving a thriller Indian Wells opener against Stearns, Sabalenka also went through some ups and downs during the Emma Raducanu match but still escaped with a 6-3 7-5 win.

"I would say that this year Indian Wells I didn't feel my best on these courts. I tried to adjust. We tried to work on couple of things, make sure I'm there and I'm fighting for this title," Sabalenka said.

"I mean, I would say that we did our best and we'll learn. We'll work a little bit more on the movement, and hopefully I'll be ready for Miami."

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Sabalenka doesn't think not playing much caused her not to feel well in IW

Following her successful Australian Open title defense, Sabalenka decided to withdraw from Doha and return to action in Dubai, where she suffered a shock loss to Donna Vekic in her opening match. For Sabalenka, that was her lone match played between the Australian Open and Indian Wells. 

But the world No. 2 doesn't really agree that's to blame for what happened to her in Indian Wells. 

"I mean, I wouldn't say that that's the case, that I didn't play a lot of matches after the Australian Open. I think I've got enough experience to still bring my best tennis, even though I didn't play many matches," Sabalenka explained.

Now, Sabalenka's focus turns to Miami, which starts on March 19th. After back-to-back early losses in Dubai and Indian Wells, Sabalenka is hoping to bounce back in Miami, a tournament she "loves."

When Miami starts next week, the 25-year-old will be making her sixth appearance at the tournament. In the past, Sabalenka had three second-round exits at the tournament while she made the Miami quarterfinal in 2021 and 2023.

"I love this tournament and I would say I feel at home because I stay at home there. Such a nice tournament. Didn't have a chance to play really well there," Sabalenka said.

"Hopefully this is the year to show my best and to bring my best tennis and to do well there."

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Sabalenka gives her take on Navarro's game 

While Navarro beating Sabalenka was definitely an upset, it was not really the biggest of surprises considering how the 22-year-old American has been playing at the start of this season. Through the first three and a half months of this season, Navarro has won her first WTA title - achieved a career-high ranking of No. 23 in the world - and she now also has 18 wins in 2024.

After making her first WTA 1000 quarterfinal in Indian Wells, Navarro is guaranteed to break into the top-20 for the first time when the WTA rankings list gets updated next week.

After playing Navarro for the first time, Sabalenka believes the 22-year-old certainly has what it takes to be a great player and reach the top-10. 

"I think she can be -- I mean, she's already in the top. No doubt she's going to be in top for a while," Sabalenka said of Navarro.

"Yeah, she just played a different rhythm, more spin. Forehand, really great forehand. Overall I would say she's moving well and playing some different rhythms so you always have to adjust.

"If your movement is not there, then you will always be off the rhythm and you'll be missing a lot of shots and making a lot of unforced errors.

"That's what actually happened to me. I wasn't moving that great today, and that's why she forced me for all those unforced errors.

"But yeah, her potential is really great. I think she's already in the top. Yeah, I think she has this potential to be in the top 10."

Aryna Sabalenka and Emma Navarro
Aryna Sabalenka and Emma Navarro© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Although Sabalenka's Dubai and Indian Wells runs weren't impressive, the Belarusian will still enter Miami among the top favorites for the title.

Aryna Sabalenka Indian Wells Emma Navarro