Another week, another final and another meeting between world number one Ash Barty and the recently turned 23 year old Aryna Sabalenka, this time in the Madrid final.
After a very good start in the Stuttgart final things got away from the Belarusian and a good start was on order for Aryna at the beginning of the final. She made a menace of herself in Barty’s first service game creating multiple break point opportunities but a challenge to Maria Cicak’s call of ‘out’ sealed a first break and a 2-0 lead.
The domination in the opening games continued from Sabalenka who was hitting the ball incredibly well and the power was too much for Barty but it was an unexpected drop shot that which sealed a double break and a 4-0 lead.
If you were late to the Caja Magica on Saturday evening for some entertainment then you’d be kicking yourself as within 25 minutes the Aussie was down set points and down a set of tennis 6-0.
It could not have gone worse for Barty during the first set but Aryna didn’t give much away, just the one unforced error in the first set from the 23 year old.
1 unforced error in the first set, 6 in the first game of the second set. The tension was visible from Sabalenka who started to hit the ball a bit wayward and was broken before a hold to love from the world number one.
The good start did slip away with the Belarusian finding herself level but the errors and the intensity she was playing with continued to do more harm than good as Ash maintained her calmness and focus on the court to break once more and keep herself just ahead.
She went from just ahead to sealing the set on a break to take it 6-3 and serving first in the third set where she took a 1-0 lead and for the first time led in the final.
You could feel the tension from Sabalenka but to her credit held off too break points to avoid going 1-3 down despite a game of errors. The slice of Barty continued to cause havoc for Aryna who was struggling to find a way to get close to the world number ones game.
She couldn’t get close on Ash’s serve but stayed level with the world number one after the opening six games in the third and final set.
It continued to be a Houdini Act from Sabalenka on serve, this time from 15-30 down she dug deep to level at 4-4.
Ash herself was going to need a Houdini Act to get herself out of trouble following two big returns giving Sabalenka an opening and a double fault meant the Belarusian had three break points!
From holding on in service games to winning 8 points in a row to win the Mutua Madrid Open, her 10th career singles title!
It is a rise to No.4 in the rankings for the Belarusian who becomes the first women in history to make the top 5 in the rankings without having made a Grand Slam quarter final.