Aryna Sabalenka sent an unequivocal message to Iga Świątek on Saturday afternoon in the final of the Madrid tournament: nothing is certain for Roland-Garros. The Belarusian was immense in front of the best player in the world on clay, winning in three sets of 6-3, 3-6 and 6-3.
Like the tiger tattooed on her left forearm, Sabalenka is wild and combative on the tennis court. By far the most powerful player on the circuit, the second racquet in the ranking accumulates its victims with heavy and lethal strikes.
This is what characterizes her game. This is what has made her the best player in the world since the beginning of the year.
However, she showed new facets of her game on the central, against the one who had beaten her just two weeks ago in the final of the Stuttgart tournament.
To beat the best player in the world, you have to play like the best in the world, and that’s what Sabalenka did.
She won the Madrid tournament for the second time in her career. Świątek should be the favorite in a few days at the Porte d’Auteuil, but she will have no choice but to be wary of her most recent faller.
In fact, Sabalenka is becoming the most complete player on the circuit. She is a real three-headed monster, able to shine on hard ground, on grass and on clay. The one whose birthday it was on Friday shows no shortcomings in her game.
The 25-year-old was true to herself early in the game. Offensive and impatient, yet powerful and precise. She was looking for her bearings. Ditto for Świątek, visibly calmer and more on the defensive.
His answer, however, was without appeal in the second round. She had taken the lead 3-0 by becoming the aggressor. Sabalenka tied the game by winning three points in a row thanks to an impressive performance from the back of the court and at the net, in particular.
Świątek, however, refused to be impressed. She won the next three points.
As things change quickly in tennis, Sabalenka in turn started the set on the hats. This set, a cut-and-paste of the previous one, also ended up at 3-3, after Świątek closed a three-point gap.
The great Belarusian won the next three points, not without difficulty. It took four match points to overcome her rival. She will have used all her ammunition. His serve, his parallel forehand, his cross backhand and net climbs. As Sabalenka’s game is rarely clean, but often efficient, she managed to snatch her third title of the season and her 13th career.
For many years, the WTA has been looking for its big star, but above all, a great rivalry capable of attracting crowds and creating excitement around each tournament.
No more searching. The one between Świątek and Sabalenka is here for good.
This final was the eighth meeting between the two attackers. It was already a third final.
Świątek won five of their eight meetings. The sequel is promising, since Sabalenka continues to take the lead and is more versatile, in addition to improving on clay.
“I hope we will play against each other often, because it gives good matches,” Sabalenka said to Świątek during the trophy ceremony.
It’s hard not to agree with him.
If Elena Rybakina can continue to perform as she did at the start of the year, perhaps we are on the verge of the birth of the next big three… female this time.