Tennis: in , Swiatek and Sabalenka repeat the 2023 final | TV5MONDE

Tennis: in , Swiatek and Sabalenka repeat the 2023 final | TV5MONDE
Tennis: in Madrid, Swiatek and Sabalenka repeat the 2023 final | TV5MONDE

Same players, still playing: as in 2023, Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka, the two best players in the world, will face each other in the final of the WTA 1000 tournament in on Saturday, three weeks before Roland-Garros (May 26-June 9) .

A year ago on Spanish clay, Sabalenka won 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 against the woman who would become a three-time winner of Roland-Garros a little over a month later.

“I would say it’s the best I’ve ever played, especially on clay. It was a clean, intense, powerful match. I think it’s the best final I’ve ever played.” , estimates the world No.2.

Swiatek was the first to qualify in the afternoon, outclassing American Madison Keys (20th) 6-1, 6-3 in 70 minutes.

Sabalenka only joined her a few moments before midnight, after overthrowing 1-6, 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) Elena Rybakina, world No.4 and who remained on eight matches won consecutively on clay in 2024, with his recent title in Stuttgart (Germany).

On the throne of world tennis for the 101st week, Swiatek has a very specific ambition in mind.

“I feel like I haven’t yet played that tactically perfect match from start to finish against her like Rybakina. That’s something I want to improve on. I know how I have to play, it’s not about not to change the plan, but to stick to it and implement it a little bit better,” she explains.

Different tempo

The two best players in the world did not go through the Madrid tournament at the same pace.

Apart from a quarter-final in three sets lasting two and a half hours (against Haddad Maia), Swiatek experienced it at a cruising pace: four matches in two sets, a maximum of 77 minutes on the court, few games left on the way.

“Overall I played good matches, my game was effective, I’m to still be fresh before the final”, appreciates the world No.1.

On the contrary, four of Sabalenka’s five face-to-face matches stretched over three sets, like her semi-final lasting more than two and a quarter hours.

In this duel between sacred strikers, Rybakina seemed to have the match in hand when, in the second set, she counted a break in advance, then served to win the game at 5 games to 4. But the Belarusian double winner of the Australian Open managed to turn the situation around.

For their first tournament on clay in 2024, in April in Stuttgart, Swiatek was stopped in the semi-finals by Rybakina, and Sabalenka a round earlier (by Vondrousova).

In the men’s draw, the day after the withdrawal of world No.2 Jannik Sinner, painful right hip, on the eve of his planned quarter-final against Canadian Félix Auger-Aliassime (35th), world No.4 Daniil Medvedev, injured in the same place, gave up after a set, which opened the doors of the last four to the young Czech Jiri Lehecka (31st).

Medvedev gives up after one set

Treated for the first time off the court after five games, and massaged again two games later, Medvedev, clearly hampered in his movements and his support, gave up after losing the first set 6-4 in around forty minutes.

On a forward run in the fourth game, “all of a sudden I felt like my hip was locking up and I couldn’t sprint, like when you strain a muscle or have a spasm ( muscular)”, described the 28-year-old Russian.

“Whether it’s a matter of five days, two weeks, I have no idea” before taking exams, continued the world No.4. “Right now, I don’t know if it’s very serious, serious, or nothing serious.”

Is his participation next week in the Masters 1000 in Rome, where he is the title holder, in danger?

“Immediately, yes,” Medvedev replied. “But I need to see the images (of the exams) and discuss with my team.”

At 22, Lehecka appeared in the semi-finals of a Masters 1000 for the first time.

The robust Czech with a powerful serve – which regularly exceeds 230 km/h – brought down Rafael Nadal in the round of 16, for the Spanish champion’s very last participation in the Madrid tournament.

The other semi-final pits world No.8 Andrey Rublev, who defeated Carlos Alcaraz in the previous round, against American Taylor Fritz (13th) on Friday.

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