Aryna Sabalenka turned the tables on Ashleigh Barty to win the Madrid Open title on Saturday evening.
Two weeks ago, Barty came from a set down to defeat Sabalenka in the final of the WTA event in Stuttgart, and it looked as if history would repeat itself when the world No 1 assumed the momentum going into the deciding set.
But Sabalenka, one of the biggest hitters on tour, powered her way through the final three games for a 6-0 3-6 6-4 triumph and a 10th career title.
𝗦𝗘𝗡𝗦𝗔𝗧𝗜𝗢𝗡𝗔𝗟 Sabalenka 🚀
— wta (@WTA) May 8, 2021
Barty had not lost a match on red clay for nearly two years since before she won her maiden Grand Slam title at Roland Garros in 2019.
She had no answer to the power of her 23-year-old Belarusian opponent in the first set here, though, as Sabalenka produced the shots that have seen her tipped as a future slam champion for several years.
Sabalenka appears closer to that than ever now and she will hit a new career-high ranking of four on Monday.
Just as impressive as her first-set dominance was the way she recomposed herself after her level dropped in the second set, refusing to let Barty engineer her way to another title.
Zverev puts on masterclass to down Thiem
Alexander Zverev avenged his defeat by Dominic Thiem in last year’s US Open final in clinical fashion, beating the Austrian 6-3 6-4 to reach the final of the Madrid Open.
Zverev, who beat top seed and tournament favourite Rafa Nadal in straight sets in the quarter-finals on Friday, will meet either Norway’s Casper Ruud or Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in Sunday’s final.
The German, who was champion in Madrid in 2018, made a strong start, breaking Thiem early in each set in what turned out to be a routine victory, despite a swirling wind at Caja Magica.
“I’m quite happy to win this one,” fifth seed Zverev said in a courtside interview. “We’ve had some fantastic matches. I think we played the biggest matches in the world.
“We’ve played Masters finals, Grand Slam finals, we’re still developing, we’re going to go on for a few more years and hopefully we’ll play a few more amazing matches.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playing in another big [Grand Slam] final and I hope I can turn it my way this time.”