Match of the Year!

In an absolute classic of a match, Iga Swiatek beat Aryna Sabalenka in the final of the 2024 Mutua Madrid Open, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7) today. This is Swiatek’s first Madrid title and her 20th title overall. She saved 3 match points, before Sabalenka hit the @6th shot of the tiebreak long, and the Polish player fell to her back in an emotional celebration. 

The level of this match was extremely high, with the world number 1 and number 2 going head to head for 3 hours 14 minutes. An outstandingly good match that is definitely the match of the year and one of the highest level women’s matches ever – on a par with (if not even better than) the classic 2023 Australian Open between Sabalenka and Rybakina. 

Since winning the Australian Open in January, Sabalenka has been in a lean spell of form. She suffered a massive emotional shock with the death of her long time ex-parter just before the Miami tournament that must have pretty devastating for her. She came into Madrid with only 4 match wins since Melbourne and with a good chance of being overtaken by Coco Gauff in the rankings. 

She began with a three set battle with Magda Linette, and was then pushed to three sets by young American Robin Montgomery to set up a clash with the hottest player on the WTA, Danielle Collins, who was on a 15 match winning streak. It was this match that seemed to play Sabalenka into form. 

Collins was dominating for a set and a half, before Sabalenka found that extra gear and fearless play to get the win. A dominant win over young Mirra Andreeva set up a mouthwatering semifinal with Elena Rybakina. Once again, Sabalenka started slowly, losing the first set 6-1 in 22 minutes. However, once again, she showed her resilience and found her best after Rybakina failed to serve out the match at 5-4 in the second set.

Meanwhile, Iga Swiatek had a much more straightforward route through. She dropped just one set, to Beatriz Haddad Maia in the quarterfinals. Hers was definitely an easier path, but Iga loves the clay. However, she had been beaten by Rybakina in the semifinals in Stuttgart a few weeks earlier. Iga is undoubtedly a fantastic player and her intense consistency means she is a very well deserved world number 1. Still just 22, she is an absolutely brilliant tennis player. However, Iga is so efficient. I don’t always find her that pleasurable to watch as she tends to wallop most of her opponents! The ones she has trouble with tend to be the big hitters. Famously, her head to head with Jelena Ostapenko is 0-4. Rybakina leads her 4-2 in their head to head too.

Going into this final, Sabalenka had secured her #2 ranking but as defending champion, she was also looking to equal the queen, Petra Kvitova, the only player to have won this title three times. The match was a repeat of the final from last year, where Sabalenka won in three sets in a very exciting match. Could it live up to that or would it be a disappointment like their wind affected WTA Championships semifinal in Cancun which Iga won easily?

Well, what a treat we had! From the first point, these two went at it. Iga’s movement and ability to turn defence into attack was devastatingly good, while Aryna’s power and courageous shot making kept her under pressure throughout.

Both players looked like they had the momentum, only for the other to fight back. This was a match that was all about the winners, with few genuine unforced errors as the pressure each put on the other was immense. That they both kept up this level all the way through to the last point was remarkable and highly admirable. Iga has really improved her serve, and especially her second serve, and her mental strength was probably the difference. Sabalenka over hitting to drop the last 2 points and ultimately lose. However, this was a match to remember, and a terrific advert for women’s tennis at its very best.

What. A. Match!

Meanwhile, this is a promising weekend for my faves as Barbora Krejcikova and her partner Laura Siegemund are into the doubles final in Madrid, their first final together. A terrific straight sets win over top seeds and Australian Open champions, Elise Mertens and Hseih Su-wei in the semifinals was excellent and emphatic. Due to injury, they have been forced to pull out of several tournaments meaning they still have only lost one completed match – the AO quarterfinal against Storm Hunter and Katerina Siniakova, and even that was injury affected as Krejcikova and Siegemund were in the driving seat until Krejcikova twisted her knee. I have everything crossed they can capture the title.

Also in a final – the WTA125 in Catalonia – is Katerina Siniakova, who plays Mayar Sharif. Four good wins this week for Katka and hopefully she can also lift a trophy. Some much needed good news for Katka, who has lost her new doubles parter after a storm Hunter ruptured her Achilles tendon while on BJK cup duty in Australia.

By Kvittycat53

WTA tennis fan, especially Petra Kvitova, Barbora Krejcikova, Kateřina Siniaková

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