A day after celebrating her birthday, world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka turned the tables on top seed Iga Switek to win the Madrid Open final.
The world’s leading female players were meeting for the second time in the finals after Swittek successfully completed her title in Stuttgart.
But world No. 1 Australian Open champion Sabalenka, 25, won 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 on Friday to claim her third title of the season.
Although Swiatek still has a big lead in the rankings, the gap has certainly closed and Sabalenka has confirmed her status as the best player so far in 2023 ahead of the French Open later this month.
Women’s tennis has been crying out for competition at the top of the game for years and it’s getting better, especially since there seems to be little love lost between the pair.
They are contrasting players with very different personalities – Sabalenka is bubbly and extremely aggressive on the court, while Swiatek is a self-proclaimed introvert who uses her extreme athleticism to control her. Throw Wimbledon and Indian Wells champion Elena Rybakina into the mix, and the WTA could start to look brighter despite the lack of real household names.
That winning moment 🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻@SabalenkaA | @WTA | #MMOPEN pic.twitter.com/KvYzhObtWK
– #MMOPEN (@MutuaMadridOpen) May 6, 2023
Sabalenka was desperate for revenge against Swiatek and learned from Stuttgart in a controlled but relentless offensive first set.
The Belarusian looked frustrated as she failed to take two break points at 3-2, but she didn’t let her head drop and held her serve to take a 5-3 lead before netting her first goal on clay.
The Poles responded impressively by taking a 3-0 lead in the second set, but the match could be over if Sabalenka bounced back and found her chance to make it four games in a row with an impressive level of powerful tennis.
Madrid at your feet 👏
The point of the game is here ⬇️ ⬇️ ⬇️#MMOPEN pic.twitter.com/x9spW9PAeP
— wta (@WTA) May 6, 2023
However, Switek dug in and took the next three games in a row to turn things around at Caja Magica.
Both knew how important a decisive start was, and with the intensity still rising, Sabalenka produced some excellent tennis in the match to take a 3-0 lead.
Looking to continue her proud record in finals, Swiak rallied again – she has won 14 of her last 16 games – but at 3-3, Sabalenka once again overcame her nerves to lead 5-3 and win her fourth game. Point.
Read more: Are Iga Svitek, Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rabakina the Big Three?