APRIL 21 - MAY 4, 2025

Sabalenka v Swiatek 10.0: Preview

Before the start of this year’s Mutua Madrid Open, Aryna Sabalenka said she felt her level had dipped as of late, making way for Iga Swiatek and Elena Rybakina to form a ‘Big Two’, rather than it being a ‘Big Three’ that included her.

Fast-forward two weeks and Sabalenka has firmly reestablished the ‘Big Three’ order and will face Swiatek in the final at the Caja Magica on Saturday, following a hard-earned three-set victory over Rybakina in the last-four stage.

Looking to become just the second three-time WTA champion in Madrid, behind Petra Kvitova, Sabalenka advanced to her third final in four years at the Spanish capital and she did it the hard way, battling through three sets in four of her five matches this fortnight.

Her reward is a rematch of last year’s final against world No. 1 Swiatek, a player she will be facing for a 10th time.

“It’s going to be great final. We had so many great matches with Iga. Always tough battles,” said the second-seeded Sabalenka.

“I’m super excited for this final. I’m going to do everything to get this win.”

Swiatek has won her last seven consecutive finals, with her last defeat coming against Sabalenka in Madrid 12 months ago.

The Polish top seed leads their head-to-head 6-3 and is searching for her ninth WTA 1000 title, from 11 finals reached.

Swiatek is bidding for a third WTA 1000 trophy this season and says she is feeling “pretty confident” heading into her showdown with Sabalenka.

“I’m happy that I can play consistently the semi-finals, finals, and sometimes win. It’s a great place to be, honestly. I’m happy that hard work pays off. So, yeah, really confident,” added the 22-year-old, who would become the youngest player to secure 20 WTA titles since Caroline Wozniacki in 2012 with a win on Saturday.

Entering their 10th showdown, neither Sabalenka nor Swiatek has faced another opponent on more occasions (Swiatek also faced Coco Gauff 10 times and Sabalenka also faced Maria Sakkari 10 times). And even though they are familiar foes, Sabalenka is still planning to do her homework ahead of Saturday’s clash.

“I think that we are all improving and we are all changing throughout the year, so I’m going to watch her matches and see if I have to adjust my strategy,” said the reigning Australian Open champion.

“But the main strategy for me is just to focus on myself and to stay aggressive and just trust my shots, and that’s it.”

Sabalenka says her performance against Swiatek in last year’s Madrid final was “the best match I ever played, especially on clay court”.

“I think the level was just super high,” she added. “It was clean, it was intense, powerful game. Yeah, like, I think that was the best final I ever played.”

Sabalenka had set a goal early last year, after she picked up her first Grand Slam title in Australia, to usurp Swiatek at the top of the rankings.

She managed to do so in September 2023, and spent eight weeks at the world No.1 before Swiatek reclaimed the summit.

In the past, Sabalenka spoke about heading into training blocks thinking about Swiatek and her dominance, and formulating ways to catch up to her.

Asked if that were still the case, she said: “It’s not that strong, but when I’m working out, working out really hard and going through tough moments on the practice court or in the fitness, always thinking I have to keep working, keep improving, keep getting better, make sure that I am actually getting better and that I’m going to get closer to this No.1 position, and I’m going to put a little more pressure on top players.

“So that’s always there, it’s good. I like it. That’s why I like it when you call us three, the ‘Big Three’, because I feel like we are motivating each other.”

So now that she’s powered her way into the finals, does Sabalenka feel that we’re back to a ‘Big Three’, instead of a ‘Big Two’?

“We will see how this season will go? It’s just one tournament. They have been playing really great on each tournament and didn’t drop the level much,” said a cautious Sabalenka.

“I have been off for, I don’t know how many tournaments, I don’t even want to think about that, so we’ll see how the season goes, and hopefully we’ll get back to these ‘Big Three’.”

The verdict is still out on that one, for now!