Aryna Sabalenka overpowered No.9 seed Maria Sakkari, 6-4, 6-1 in Thursday’s semifinals to advance to the championship match at the Mutua Madrid Open for the second time in the past three years.

Sabalenka, the 2021 champion in Madrid, will next take on No.1 seed Iga Swiatek. Sabalenka is bidding for a fifth career WTA 1000 title in her sixth appearance in a final at this level, her 13th career title overall and her third title of 2023.

Sabalenka’s victory over Sakkari is the 25th Top 10 win of her career. Madrid will be Sabalenka’s fifth final of the season, having won Adelaide, the Australian Open, and finishing runner-up in Indian Wells and Stuttgart. She is the first player since Victoria Azarenka in 2012 to make five finals before the tour turned to Rome.

Turning point: Sabalenka extended her head-to-head advantage against Sakkari to 6-3 in 1 hour and 25 minutes, beating the Greek in straight sets for the fifth time. From 3-3 in the opening set, Sabalenka won nine of the last 11 games in the match, including the last five.

Sabalenka won the first three games, but Sakkari hit back to take the next three — including a titanic service hold for 3-3 that went six deuces, where she saved four break points.

Sakkari had two further break points on Sabalenka’s serve to extend her run to four straight games but couldn’t take the lead. Sabalenka broke Sakkari for a second time to wrap up a one-set lead from 30-0 down. With a set in hand, the World No.2 dropped just one more game to seal her tour-leading 28th victory of the season.

Words from the winner: After the match, Sabalenka had high praise for her own performance.

“I think it was actually my best match of the tournament,” she said. “I started really well. Then Maria came back.

“But mentally I was staying really strong. I knew that she’s going to fight for every point. It didn’t, how to say, didn’t destroy me that she came back. I was still playing, I was still fighting for every point.

“Yeah, I’m super happy with the level that I played, and especially with my mental game, I would say. I’m more happy with my mental game.”

Leave a Reply