The Madrid WTA 1000 reaches its conclusion on Saturday, when the Caja Mágica will crown a new #MMOPEN champion. The two players in the hunt for glory are very familiar faces and unarguably the stars of the European clay swing so far. Ashleigh Barty, the world number one, against Aryna Sabalenka, No. 7 in the WTA ranking.
Both players have displayed some scintillating form. For the third time -and at the third consecutive tournament- this season, Barty and Sabalenka are crossing paths. Their first encounter this year came in the quarter-finals of the Miami WTA 1000, then the final of the WTA 500 in Stuttgart, with the Australian coming out on top both times. The Belarusian, though, took both matches to three sets and she will be hoping it is third time lucky in Madrid.
Barty leads their all-time head-to-head, but it is close at 4-3. The Australian has had a sensational 2021 to date, with three titles under her belt -Melbourne, Miami and Stuttgart- and now the chance to become the third world number one to don the crown in Madrid; Dinara Safina (2009) and Serena Williams (2013) having done so before her.
Sabalenka, for her part, has been a force of nature in the Caja Mágica. She comes into the final without having lost a single set and she has only lost 18 games in the whole tournament. “Everything seems to be on my side”, acknowledged the Belarusian, who celebrated her 23rd birthday on Thursday. “I’m just trying to stay positive and just trying to enjoy my life,” Sabalenka said. “But I was always like this, I’m always smiling, always having fun”.
How the two candidates view the final
Barty: “For her it’s serving and first shot, being able to control the point. That gives her freedom on return games to be more aggressive and to really knuckle down. The balance for her must be really good this week. The challenge is to get yourself into a position where she’s not controlling the court. It’s about neutralizing as best you can for me, changing the pace, being aggressive when I have to be, running when I have to as well. It’s a massive challenge”.
Sabalenka: “She’s No.1, she’s great. I played her in Stuttgart. It’s not an easy game. I will do everything I can to prepare myself as good as I can. Just looking forward to this battle.”.
The story will unfold in the Manolo Santana at 18:30 tomorrow. Who will take the title?