The Intense Showdown Between Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka at Mutua Madrid Open 2024

Iga Swiatek emerged triumphant against Aryna Sabalenka to claim her inaugural title in Madrid.

The clash, featuring the world No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, showcased Swiatek’s resilience as she saved three match points en route to her third championship win of the year.

The Intense Showdown Between Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka at Mutua Madrid Open 2024

The world number one saved three match points and turned the script in a replay of last year’s final, securing her third win of the year in the Spanish capital.

“Who’s gonna say now that women’s tennis is boring?” Iga Swiatek asked the Spanish audience at the Caja Magica only minutes after the Mutua Madrid Open final. Certainly no one in attendance, as the top two seeds took the women’s event to a thrilling finale on Saturday evening.

While the men’s draw has collapsed owing to injuries, retirements, and early withdrawals from local favorites, generating two surprise finals in Andrey Rublev and Felix Auger-Aliassime, the women’s event has played out almost exactly as expected, with the championship match being a tennis fan’s dream match.

For the second year in a row, the WTA’s world No. 1 and world No. 2 faced off in a high-octane title clash—this time, No. 1 Swiatek flipped the script to win her first title in the Spanish capital, defeating No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7) over three hours and 11 minutes.

“This was one of the craziest finals I’ve ever played,” Swiatek told Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj afterwards. “I’ve never won such a tight and intense match at the end of a tournament, so it’s making me super proud that I could just stick to what I wanted to do until the end and I didn’t lose my focus.”

Swiatek now has won at least one WTA 1000 title, with the exception of Dubai, Canada, and Cincinnati. She also completes a clay-court box set, with Madrid being the only “big” clay-court championship that had evaded her, having previously won Stuttgart (WTA 500) and Rome (WTA 1000) twice, as well as three Roland Garros titles.

The victory also matches her with Elena Rybakina for the most match victories (30) and titles (3) on the WTA Tour this season.

In their tenth career meeting, these familiar opponents revealed few mysteries; Swiatek had a 6-3 edge in their head-to-head record, reinforced by a straight-set victory in their most recent meeting at the WTA Finals Cancun. In Madrid, they played the longest match of their rivalry by more than 30 minutes and went down to the wire, with the first tiebreak this pair has disputed in the deciding set.

Both players will be back in action at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, a WTA 1000 event. The main draw begins Tuesday, May 7-19, in Rome, Italy.

Also Read: Iga Swiatek’s Dominant Win at Indian Wells Final 2024: A Triumph in Tennis History

The Intense Showdown Between Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka

On Saturday, the Pole emerged victorious, but so did this rivalry and its future prospects. May Swiatek-Sabalenka era begin.

Tennis matches don’t get much harder, better, or more fiercely contested than Iga Swiatek’s 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7) victory against Aryna Sabalenka in the Mutua Madrid Open final on Saturday.

Since their first meeting three years before, these two had developed a rivalry that had been brewing in fits and starts. Since 2022, each has won multiple majors, neither has been out of the top two for long, and both has appeared, at moments, to be the tour’s future player. They had played nine matches, four of which had gone three sets. The finest was last year’s Madrid final, which Sabalenka won in three sets.

The Intense Showdown Between Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka at Mutua Madrid Open 2024

Until Sunday, we didn’t know how evenly matched they were, how hard they could push each other, or how good their combined tennis could be. Each seemed to have a unique reason to want to win this one—Sabalenka to get a promising season back on track and put a difficult couple of months behind her; Swiatek to win a tournament she had never won on her favorite surface. From the first points, there was an extra crackle in the air at Manolo Santana Stadium, an extra snap to their shots, and an extra effort from both to stay upbeat and take control of the game as quickly as possible.

Three hours, three sets, 237 points, more than 70 winners, and countless groans, cries, and “Come on!”s later, neither had discovered an advantage over the other.
“I think it was the most intense, and like, crazy final I’ve played,” Swiatek said in a statement.

The first two sets were won by one player who raised her game at the end.

Swiatek smashed her backhand return in the first set, breaking at 5-5 with a down-the-line backhand and holding on with an ace and a forehand winner. In the second set, Sabalenka responded by—what else?—swinging harder and hitting closer to the lines. With Swiatek serving at 4-5, Sabalenka swooped in with two blistering winners, one from the backhand and one from the forehand, to tie the match.

Sabalenka also advanced to the third round with those two shots. She broke with another forehand winner to lead 3-1. When Swiatek drilled her opening shot of the next game into the net, her psychologist, Daria Abramowicz, stood up to encourage her. Another break, and the match could be lost. Swiatek answered immediately. This time, it was her turn to increase her pace and danger level.

“I felt like some [of her] decisions were pretty, you know, courageous,” Sabalenka told Swiatek. “So at the end, I just wanted to…also be courageous.”

Swiatek, who was serving at 5-6 in the third set, used all of her resolve to save two championship points. On the first, she hit a backhand a few inches inside the baseline that Sabalenka could not handle. On the second, she charged into a crosscourt forehand and hit it for a winner.

The Intense Showdown Between Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka at Mutua Madrid Open 2024

A tiebreaker was the only way to decide a contest this close and well-played. Perhaps it was nerves or fatigue, but neither performed well in the breaker—the points were earned by missed returns and blunders. Nonetheless, the score remained close, and the drama intensified. Swiatek reached 5-5 with a superb body serve. Sabalenka saved a match point with an ace and earned her third match point, 7-6.

And then…Sabalenka committed three consecutive errors. Swiatek survived after a long backhand, a long return, and another long backhand. After three hours, those three shots made the difference.

Sabalenka couldn’t stop praising Swiatek.
“Probably when I broke her in the third set, I should have been more focused on my serve,” she remarked. “At the same time, it’s not as if I made a mistake twice. It’s just that she played excellent tennis and wrecked my back.”

Swiatek stated that she spent the first two sets wondering when she will be able to relax. When it didn’t happen right away, she attempted to draw inspiration from Rafael Nadal’s five-set comeback victory in the 2022 Australian Open final.

“I was, like, ‘Oh, my God, am I going to feel a little bit more loose soon?” Swiatek explained. “It didn’t really happen, and then after two hours, it did.”

“I remember when [Rafa] was playing Medvedev in Australia and everything connected for him—it felt like that. That gave me optimism that it would work, even after two hours.”

On Saturday, the Pole emerged victorious, but so did this rivalry and its future prospects. May SwiatekSabalenka era begin.

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