Tennis: Swiatek Defeats Sabalenka In Thrilling Madrid Open Final


World number one Iga Swiatek saved three championship points to beat world number two Aryna Sabalenka 7-5 4-6 7-6 (9-7) and win her first Madrid Open title. The Pole had been a break down early in the third set but held her nerve down the stretch to gain revenge for defeat by Sabalenka in last year’s final. Swiatek dug deep to save two match points in the 13th game of the third set to stay in the match, then saved another in the tie-break on her way to victory.

The first meeting of the top two players in the world this season kept the Spanish crowd enthralled for more than three hours, and featured some extraordinary power, brilliant shot-making, and superb defence. It is the 22-year-old’s 20th career title and denies Sabalenka a third crown in the Spanish capital.

After the players exchanged early service breaks, they settled down and it was the serve that dominated proceedings. Swiatek was the first to be tested and as she started to make more unforced errors, she needed to work hard to save three break points and level at 3-3.

In the next game it was Swiatek’s turn to earn break-point opportunities, but Sabalenka saved both thanks to a pair of forehand winners. But it was Swiatek who seized the initiative, forcing a couple of errors from her opponent to go 6-5 up and she showed nerves of steel on her own serve to take the set.

Sabalenka had been a set and a break down before beating Elena Rybakina in Friday’s semi-final, and made a superb start to the second set here, holding and then breaking to go 2-0 up. That started a run of four breaks in a row, only halted when the Pole, a four-time French Open champion, held to level at 3-3.

Sabalenka did her best not to let her rival settle into a rhythm and was rewarded when the pressure told on Swiatek as she served to stay in the second set, the Australian Open champion sending a smart forehand down the line to level the match at one set apiece.

Sabalenka seized the early initiative in the decider, breaking to go 3-1 up and pile on the pressure but Swiatek clawed her way back into it and twice had to serve to stay in the match. The Belarusian, who turns 26 on Sunday, saw championship points come and go twice as Swiatek forced the tie-break – a first between the pair.

Sabalenka went long with a forehand for Swiatek to earn her first match point, and although Sabalenka responded with an ace, moments later the world number one was given another chance – and Sabalenka went long again to spark celebrations.

Aryna Sabalenka said she was encouraged by the level of her performances in the Madrid Open despite the defeat. “I’m happy with the level I played, with the effort I put into this match and into this week,” Sabalenka told reporters. “It’s a lot of good things to take out of this tournament, and I think I’m leaving Madrid with positive thoughts… I think after the Australian Open, I struggled for a couple of months. It’s been intense.

“It was tough to find myself back, but I’m super happy that here in Madrid I was able to bring it all together and to be able to get back to my level. I think it only can get better from now on.” Sabalenka is next in action at the Italian Open in Rome.

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