Aryna Sabalenka took her 13th career WTA title, winning against Iga Swiatek in Saturday's final of Mutua Madrid Open. The Belarusian occured to be better in the clash between the world's top two top ranked players, as she won 6-3 3-6 6-3.
Today's match was some kind of revenge in second consecutive final played between both after the WTA 500 tournament in Stuttgart, won by Swiatek two weeks ago. The Pole was quite a confident pre-match favorite according to her dominant performance on clay surface. The pre-match odd for the victory of current world's number one was rated on 1.26. The course of events on court was much different though, as Sabalenka not only did not differ in performance level, but was the player who dictated the play terms from the start. The Belarusian played aggresively and kept the composure from the start till the end of opening set, winning it with a score 6-3. Sabalenka put a pressure on Swiatek in decisive phase of this set, producing 4 breakpoints in two consecutive games, while not facing any single one during whole the set.
Swiatek hase needed to find some tools to change the momentum and seemingly did it well after the start of second set, as she broke her opponent in 2nd game for the first time in this match and moved into comfortable 3-0 lead after 3 games. The comfort was quite illusory though, as Sabalenka fought back and leveled the score. The current Australian Open champion was very close to set herself up in the driver's seat to win it in straight sets, while having 2 breakpoints in 7th game, which could move her up into 4-3 lead with a break advantage. Swiatek made a huge hold there, winning 4 points in a row, and took this set eventually after earning the break in following game.
The decider has upheld the interesting tendency, as since the score 3-3 in the opening set, both finalists traded a 3-game winning streak between themselves till the end of the match. This time, the momentum was on Sabalenka's side, who started the third set with a break, but did not keep her advantage as being broken to love in 5th game. It was possibly the worst service game in whole the match, as Sabalenka lost all the points after unforced errors and ended it up with a double fault. The Belarusian regained her advantage in 8th game and secured the win in the most dramatic game of the match, a while later. Swiatek was close to level it up again, but did not convert the breakpoint. Sabalenka has needed 4 matchpoints to close the match, but did it finally to take the title after 2:26 hours of fight.
"It is always tough battles against Iga. She always pushes me to the limits. I really enjoy our battles. Hopefully, we can play many more finals this season. It was not easy at all, but I kind of expect something like that from Iga, that she is gonna fight for the last point. I am super happy how I was able to mentally handle this situation and to keep fighting and keep trying." - said the winner, who has repeated her success in Madrid, after winning her before in the year 2021.
Despite being successful in the WTA 1000 tournaments before, it can be possibly the second most valuable victory in Sabalenka's career, following her January's maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne. She managed to defeat the world's number one on her favourite surface, just two weeks after being beaten in the direct duel between both. This win a statement, that Sabalenka can really challenge Swiatek for the world's supremacy and be a serious threat ahead of the rest of clay season, including the French Open. Apart from this, today's match was worth 600 points in terms of battle for the WTA rankings first spot, which can be a serious contest in terms of a few weeks. Swiatek defends 2900 points in the upcoming WTA 1000 in Rome and Roland Garros, while just 440 points will be deducted from the account of Sabalenka. Looking from this perspective, it is the Pole who needs to chase up and prevail in the upcoming weeks, even despite having the illusory cushion in the official rankings. Swiatek is up with about 1800 points clear right now, but counting the deductions till the end of clay season, Sabalenka has a gap of 700 points to think about becoming the new world's number already in June. The WTA Race list looks even better for the Belarusian, who leads there with 4830 points in the bag, with a big advantage over 2nd Elena Rybakina (3276 points) and 3rd Swiatek (2930 points).