Swiatek sores maiden Madrid title in three-set thriller

WORLD number one Iga Swiatek overcame defending champion Aryna Sabalenka in the 2024 Madrid Open final overnight, winning in a three-hour and 11-minute epic contest. The Polish star had to pull out everything she had to defeat her rival, winning 7-5 4-6 7-6.

The WTA 1000 title was the 20th of her young career, as Swiatek became the youngest player to hit the milestone since Caroline Wozniacki 12 yeas ago. Additionally, the 22-year-old became the youngest player since Arantxa Sanchez Viccario two decades prior, to win eight WTA Tour claycourt titles.

“For sure when I look back in maybe a few years, it will mean a lot,” Swiatek said of the achievements post-match. “But for now, I’m just happy that I won this tournament anyway. Doesn’t matter for me if I won it before or not. I try to win each tournament that I play.

Twelve months ago it was Sabalenka who won in Madrid – her second title at the event – and in 2024 she was gunning to become the first player to win three WTA 1000 titles in the city. Instead, Swiatek came up trumps winning her seventh consecutive final since that loss, and in the process tied with world number four Elena Rybakina both in 2024 titles (three) and match wins (30).

As expected, the match was a topsy turvy one, as both players broke in their opening return games, before it returned to the status quo to go to 5-5. Sabalenka had an off service game which is all Swiatek needed, breaking and then holding to take hte first set 7-5.

The Belarusian was not going to let it slip easily though, quickly racing to a 2-0 lead, though Swiatek returned serve – literally – to break her back and level the set at three games apiece. However another twist was to come while on serve in the 10th game, with Swiatek serving her only double fault of the set to hand Sabalenka a chance, and two winners later, the Belarusian forced a decider.

It looked as if Sabalenka’s record in third sets would continue as she raced a break clear after four games. But an immediate break next chance she got put the Pole back in contention and the pair went toe-for-toe again to make it to 5-5.

In the final game before the tiebreaker Swiatek had to save two championship points and then got her opportunity to hit the winner and take it there. In the tiebreaker she had her first championship point at 6-5, before Sabalenka held on her two service points to grab one of her own at 7-6. However a trio errors from the world number two saw the world number one secure the victory.

“At the end, I don’t know what made a difference,” Swiatek said. “I think we both kind of deserved to win today. I think it was only about these little points in the tiebreaker.

“I think it was more about who’s going to be less stressed and who’s going to be able to play with more freedom,” Swiatek said. “I think actually for most of the match, I felt like some decisions [from her] were pretty courageous. I was sometimes a little bit back.

“So at the end, I just wanted to not do that and to also be courageous.”

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