Preview: Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka run it back with another all-Top 2 Madrid final

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There’s one thing we can say for sure going into this final: Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka will do their best not to think about each other.

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

“For sure it’s going to be a challenge…and a tough match,” Swiatek says. “I will be ready. I will focus on myself.”

The two are meeting for the first time since the 2023 WTA Finals, where Swiatek won their semifinal clash en route to clinching the year-end No. 1 ranking.
The two are meeting for the first time since the 2023 WTA Finals, where Swiatek won their semifinal clash en route to clinching the year-end No. 1 ranking.

That makes sense, because by now each woman has a pretty good idea of what the other is capable of. This is the 10th meeting between the WTA’s No. 1 and 2, and their second straight Madrid final. Swiatek leads 6-3 overall, and 3-1 on clay. But if we want to get hyperlocal, Sabalenka leads 1-0 on this particular clay. She won their final here last year in three sets, in what she says was “the best match I ever played, especially on clay.”

The two have taken very different roads to a rematch. Swiatek has been ruthless, even by her own lofty standards for dominance on this surface. Five of the sets she has won have been 6-1, and when she did drop a set, to Beatriz Haddad Maia, she stormed through the next two, 6-0, 6-2. Sabalenka, by contrast, has taken the circuitous route. Four of her five matches have gone three sets, and she had to come back from a 6-1, 3-1 deficit against Elena Rybakina in the semifinals.

In the past, when a 1000-level event was a daily grind, this would have disadvantaged Sabalenka. But with the extended schedule and the extra days of rest, she should be on a level playing field physically with Swiatek. As for their games, these are the two premier baseline sluggers in the WTA, and neither has a big edge over the other when it comes to their ground strokes. Sabalenka has a stronger serve, but also one that has been prone to breakdowns in tight moments.

Their health, their form, their attitudes, their rankings, and their history—four of their nine matches have gone three sets—all point toward a worthy reprise of their 2023 final.

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