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Swiatek Saves Match Points, Dethrones Sabalenka in Madrid Thriller

MADRID, SPAIN – MAY 04: Iga Swiatek of Poland poses for a photo with the trophy after victory against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus following their Women’s Singles Final match on Day Twelve of Mutua Madrid Open at La Caja Magica on May 04, 2024 in Madrid, Spain. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

The sequel was a shot-making spectacle.

Squaring off in a Madrid final rematch, the world’s top two delivered dizzying drama in the Magic Box.

Standing her ground, Iga Swiatek showed supreme closing skills and pure guts prevailing in a classic.

World No. 1 Swiatek saved three championship points dethroning defending champion Aryna Sabalenka 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(7) in a pulsating three hour, 11-minute Mutua Madrid Open final that will go down as a clay classic.

On her second championship point, Swiatek spun a deep return, drew one final error and fell flat on her back absorbing a wild win.

As Sabalenka slumped in her court-side seat and buried her face in her towel in deep disappointment, a smiling Swiatek arose, sprinted to her support box hugging each member of her team after improving to 30-4 with her third title of 2024.

This was a physically-demanding duel that saw the Grand Slam champions take turns ratcheting up the pressure—repeatedly forcing each other to lift their level amid the high elevation of Madrid and the high anxiety at play.

“Aryna too many finals—always a challenge playing against you,” Swiatek said. “So thanks for motivating me and forcing me to be a better player.”

t was Swiatek’s eighth straight finals win—the last final she lost was to Sabalenka in Madrid on May 6, 2023—and her 20th career title. Nine of Swiatek’s 20 titles are WTA 1000 championships and four are Grand Slam crowns.

The 22-year-old Swiatek is the youngest woman to collect 20 career championships since former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki did it back in 2012.

The second-ranked Sabalenka was bidding to join Petra Kvitova as the second woman to win three Madrid championships. Sabalenka very nearly pulled it off too.

A couple of months after Sabalenka suffered the tragic death of her ex-boyfriend in Miami, she showed champion’s spirit attacking her shots. Sabalenka earned two championship points on Swiatek’s serve at 5-6 and a third championship point at 7-6 in the tiebreaker.

Facing the fire from the champion, Swiatek did not flinch. Sabalenka said last week, she prefers watching men’s tennis to women’s tennis. A review of this blockbuster may well modify her viewing habits.

“Last months have been kind of like intense for me; seems like I haven’t been onstage forever,” Sabalenka told Madrid fans. “Thank you so much for the atmosphere, you guys make this place very special for me.

“I enjoy playing in front of you all and I just tried to make this match as long as possible to make this match as long as I can. Congrats Iga on another great tournament for you and hopefully next year it goes to me. Great match, three hours, that’s a long one, hopefully we’ll recover fast for the next tournament. Wish us luck guys.”

In their 2023 Madrid final, Sabalenka ran through the final three games stopping Swiatek 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 to capture her second Mutua Madrid Open crown in the past three years.

Today, Sabalenka put herself in position to do it again.

On her first championship point, Sabalenka tried squeezing a forehand down the line—a shot she hit well all match long—but missed it well wide. Swiatek swept a forehand winner crosscourt to save championship point No. 2, eventually forcing the tiebreaker.