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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Thursday May 2, 2024

Aryna Sabalenka

Defending champ Aryna Sabalenka stretched her Madrid mastery to eleven consecutive wins, edging Elena Rybakina in a third-set tiebreak on Thursday night.

Photo Source: Getty

Aryna Sabalenka wasn’t about to give up after falling behind by a set and a break to Elena Rybakina in Thursday’s blockbuster semifinal between the pair of hard-hitting phenoms and longtime rivals.

Tennis Express

She was down and seemingly out against a player who had notched 16 consecutive clay court wins, but defending champion Sabalenka had a streak of her own going and played with self-belief down the stretch as she erased a deficit, came through a tense third set and eventually finished off Rybakina in a tiebreak, 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) to set a rematch of the 2023 Madrid final with Iga Swiatek.

Talk about eye of the tiger… it was all on display on Thursday in the Caja Magica, as Sabalenka flipped the script after being the second-best player for the first set and a half.

With the win, Sabalenka snapped Rybakina’s remarkable run of 12 consecutive deciding sets won, and – also remarkably – improved to 6-0 lifetime against the Kazakhstani in third sets.

How did she manage it?

“Honestly, I don't know,” she said, in trademark fashion, adding: “I was just trying to do my best, trying to fight for every point. I was hoping that I'll have an opportunity to turn this match around, and yeah, super happy that I was able to do that.”

Rybakina will rue her chances squandered in the two hour and 19-minute contest. The 24-year-old was up, serving for the match at 6-1, 5-4, 30-all and had an easy forehand to get to match point. With a nervous swipe she steered the ball just wide and from there she would never lead again.

Sabalenka broke for 5-all on the next point and took the final three games of the set to force a third set.

“Of course it's a pity to lose,” Rybakina said. “I mean, I still have this ball on top of the net at 5-4, 30-All. Of course it's a pity when you have this opportunity. But Aryna played well. Even in the second set she raised the level from the first one, so it was not easy, but yeah, it is what it is.”

Tennis Express

In a tight, well-played third set, neither player could manage a deuce game on the other’s serve in the first ten games. Rybakina broke through first, earning a pair of break points in the 11th game, but Sabalenka was up to the task. She saved them both, got to a tiebreak, and finally finished off Rybakina with an impressive flurry, racing to a 6-3 lead before converting her third match point to lock up her 11th consecutive Madrid victory (17-3 lifetime).

She’ll face clay guru Swiatek, who decimated Madison Keys earlier on Thursday, for the tenth time on Saturday, in the rematch of last year’s final, which was won by Sabalenka, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

“It's going to be a great final. We had so many great matches with Iga. Always tough battles,” Sabalenka said. “I'm super excited for this final. Once again, I'm going to do everything to get this win.”

Sabalenka will bid for her 15th title, while Swiatek will bid for her 20th. The Pole holds the 6-3 lifetime edge over Sabalenka, but they have split their last four meetings, including the last two, which were both clay court finals.


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