Aryna Sabalenka edged out Iga Swiatek 6-3,3-6,6-3 in the summit clash in Madrid to capture her third title of the season.
Having lost to the same opponent in the Stuttgart Open final a fortnight ago, Sabalenka improved her record to 29-4 for the season in a match best described as worthy of a final between the top two players in the WTA rankings. With the faster than usual clay in Madrid and high altitude coming into picture, Sabalenka relied on her power hitting combined with strong serves to take advantage of the conditions.
Sabalenka put behind her a shaky hold in the first game to dominate the first set dropping just 7 points on her serve all set. Swiatek then leveled things in the second set, taking advantage of the fact that Sabalenka wanting to end the contest in two sets, started looking for more winnners which in turn forced more errors allowing her opponent to capitalize. The third set was another close one with momentum shifts as Iga came back from 0-3 down to level it at 3-3 before Sabalenka won the next three to eventually prevail 6-3.
The hot start to her season has also helped Sabalenka close in on the world number 1 rank. Leading the race to the Tour Finals in Shenzhen with more than a 1500 point lead over second placed Elena Rybakina, Sabalenka is now within 2000 points of Iga Swiatek.
With Iga having won both the Rome Open and Roland-Garros in 2022, she will be defending 2900 points in those two tournaments with Sabalenka having only 480 points to defend in the same time period. Should these two end up meeting in any of those tournaments, the slower conditions will definitely give an advantage to Swiatek but she will also be dealing with the added pressure of being the defending champion.
Tennis fans spent the entire 2022 season desperately waiting for someone to rival Iga Swiatek at the biggest stage and Aryna Sabalenka seems to have arrived as a worthy challenger, setting up a very exciting future for women’s tennis.