MADRID, Spain (AFP) — World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka played a superb attacking game to beat Iga Swiatek in the Madrid Open final on Saturday for her first win on clay against her top-ranked rival.
The Belarusian prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to capture the title in the Spanish capital for the second time.
Until Saturday, the 25-year-old had lost all of her three previous meetings with the Pole on clay without even winning a set.
“It’s something unbelievable. I’m really happy that I’m able to fight against her and I’m able to get this win so it’s not like so super boring for people to watch our matches,” the champion said.
“I really enjoy playing on clay, because I have extra time. It’s not super-fast, so I can go for my powerful shots. There are longer rallies. It’s like not just bomb, bomb.”
The big-hitting Belarusian gained revenge for defeat by her Polish rival in the Stuttgart final a fortnight ago with a thrilling triumph to end Swiatek’s nine-match winning streak ahead of her French Open defense.
Two-time Roland Garros winner Swiatek fought her way back into the match after an explosive start by Sabalenka, but the second seed came back strongly in the third set to win the first WTA 1000 final featuring the top two ranked players since 2014.
Sabalenka earned her 13th career title, and only her second on clay in two hours and 25 minutes, clinching victory on her fourth championship point with a forehand cross-court winner.
“I’m just super happy with this win, especially against Iga on the clay, it’s always tough matches against her,” Sabalenka added.
The Australian Open champion started with great intensity in her serve and forehand, given some extra zip because of the altitude — Madrid is the second highest European capital city.