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Aryna Sabalenka defeated Iga Swiatek (6/3 4/6 6/3) in the Madrid Open finals on May, Saturday 6.

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The eighth encounter between the two players was astonishing. Even though it was the same than in Stuttgart last week, the finals didn’t end up the same. This time, Aryna Sabalenka managed to win to confirm her great start of the season. After a first Grand Slam title in Australia, she won a second master 1000 title.

Despite first months less flaming than last year, Iga Swiatek keeps dominating world tennis. After an early loss in the fourth round of the Australian Open, she won two titles and lost two finals. Being almost 2000 points ahead in the rankings, the Polish seems determined to keep the number one spot of the world.

A demonstration from Aryna Sabalenka

The first game of the encounter allowed both players to settle in. Aryna Sabalenka didn’t hit enough first serves while Iga Swiatek dictated the rallies. The Byelorussian won a tied first game of serve: 1/0. The number one player easily matched the score thanks to her consistency: 1/1. As she served better, Aryna Sabalenka, managed to enforce her tennis. Her game plan was clear: attack on every ball even if it means taking risks. Her opponent resisted to her constant assaults: 2/2. Iga Swiatek didn’t return well yet, which helped the Byelorussian to win her serve: 3/2. The winner of Stuttgart was in trouble during the sixth game. A string of two unforced errors gave two break points to her opponent. She saved the first one by hitting the ball early; the second one was thrown away by Aryna Sabalenka who made a fault. Her constant will to attack played tricks on her: 3/3. The latter didn’t hesitate to come at the net to finish the points: 4/3. The number one player of the world was once again in trouble during her game of serve. She made a backhand error which gave the break away to her opponent. Aryna Sabalenka just had to serve for the set – which she did without any difficulty.

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During the first set, the Byelorussian managed to chock Iga Swiatek’s attacking game. She hit every ball with the will to make a winner out of it. Despite a few big errors, her strategy paid off. The Polish didn’t manage to get out of her defensive position. Always standing two meters behind her baseline, she underwent the assaults of her opponent. Her topspin balls and her defensive abilities weren’t enough.

Iga Swiatek fights back

Iga Swiatek began the second set with an authoritarian game of serve: 1/0. She read better the powerful serve of her rival. After a string of deep returns, she got an early break: 2/0. She confirmed this advantage with a love game made of unreturned first serves: 3/0. Aryna Sabalenka kept up the score: 3/1. The fifth game was endless. Each strike of the Byelorussian looked like winners. The number one in the world hung on. Even if she saved four break points, Aryna Sabalenka played a beautiful backhand down the line to win the fifth. The break was erased: 3/3. Iga Swiatak remained in the lead – and saved two break points on her way. The first one thanks to a perfect counterpoint; the second one thanks to a well-constructed point: 4/3. Aryna Sabalenka went on with an imperfect game. A few unforced errors due to her rush gave precious break points to the number one player of the world. The latter only needed the first one: she hit a winning return that nailed her opponent on the spot. Iga Swiatek led 5/3. She won the last game of the second set easily.

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The second set couldn’t have been more tied. Breaks were made, a few were erased. Aryna Sabalenka kept the same strategy. Her numerous winners came with more unforced errors and less first serves. Iga Swiatek took advantage of those. Even though the first player of the world couldn’t free her strikes, she focused her energy elsewhere. Her returns, far more precise and deeper, made the difference.

A tied deciding set

The first rally of the deciding set illustrated the encounter. Aryna Sabalenka multiplied aggressive balls while Iga Swiatek defended each one. The Byelorussian took the lead of the final after a first tied game. Both players rose their level of play: they gave each other blows for blows. Aryna Sabalenka hit every ball with the will to disturb opponent. An unforced error from Iga Swiatek gave an early break to her rival: 2/0. Then, great points followed each other. By turn, the finalists rose to the net and slid on clay. Aryna Sabalenka used all her resources to keep her lead: 3/0. Iga Switek fought back. She took advantage of a catastrophic game of her opponent – concluded by a double fault – to match the score. Determined, the Polish finally played an attacking tennis. She hit the ball early because she didn’t want to step back from her baseline. Aryna Sabalenka protected herself with huge first serves: 4/3, Iga Swiatek’s serve to follow. The latter made two unforced errors at the worst time. The Byelorussian took her chance. She concluded a point at the net before winning a second one thanks to a crosscourt forehand. Having made the break, she only had to serve for the title. Iga Swiatek didn’t give up. She saved three match points before losing the match.

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The last set was the most exciting of the three. The battle couldn’t have been fiercer. Iga Swiatek pushed herself to take the ball early to defend her baseline while Aryna Sabalenka freed her strikes. Points concluded at the net and balls that landed on the lines pleased Madrid’s public. From the beginning to the end, the Byelorussian did the unthinkable: she prevented the number one player of the world to play the tennis she likes. Choked and filled with doubt, she was out of solutions. Every neutral strike was punished by a winner from Aryna Sabalenka.

Mutua Madrid Open : watch the best moments

In eight encounters, the Madrid Open was the first victory of Aryna Sabalenka against Iga Swiatek on clay. It creates more suspense for the French Open; and enabled us to hope for future flaming battles between the two players.

Marnie Abbou

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