Tennis-Old habits die hard, Sabalenka derailed by erratic serve at Indian Wells

Mar 19, 2023; Indian Wells, CA, USA; Aryna Sabalenka reacts after missing a shot as she was defeated by Elena Rybakina (KAZ) in the women’s final of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Aryna Sabalenka said she had slipped back into "old habits" with her serve during her 7-6(11) 6-4 loss to Elena Rybakina in Sunday's Indian Wells final but the Australian Open champion vowed to learn from her mistakes and come back stronger.

Sabalenka struggled with her serve over the last few years before a stint with a biomechanics trainer turned her weakness into a weapon, which she used to great effect en route to her first Grand Slam title in January.

But in a rematch of that title clash, the Belarusian struggled with accuracy again as all 10 of her double faults came in the opening set of the Indian Wells final.

"There will be some days when old habits come back and you just have to work through it. Not every match will be going your way and you'll be serving perfectly," Sabalenka said.

"So it's a reminder that it's okay to still struggle with something. It's okay to not play your best and keep fighting and keep using the rest of the weapons.

"I was super disappointed with my serve. I was over-reacting and wasn't there in the first two games in the second set."

Sabalenka's defeat was only her second in 19 matches this year and she said she would need time to overcome it.

"I think this will be my dream tonight. It's going to be in my head till tomorrow, because there were so many points where I could play better and handle myself better," she said.

"Especially when serving for the set, there's no pressure on me so why would I go for bigger serves. Just serve to the body and play the point. I was over-hitting.

"This is another lesson and that's okay. I have nothing against that. I'll learn and come back better."

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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