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Sabalenka: I Know I Can Beat Swiatek

By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Thursday, May 4, 2023

Aryna Sabalenka nearly knocked Iga Swiatek down in last month's Stuttgart final.

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The second-ranked Sabalenka believes she has the game to take the world No. 1 out if they meet in a Madrid final rematch.

The second-ranked Sabalenka stormed through five straight games sweeping Maria Sakkari 6-4, 6-1 to roll into her second Mutua Madrid Open final in the last three years.

Australian Open champion Sabalenka will face either the top-seeded Swiatek or 12th-seeded Veronika Kudermetova in Saturday's final.

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If Sabalenka and Swiatek square off it will be a rematch of their fiery Stuttgart final last month.

Swiatek unloaded a flurry of forehands fighting off Sabalenka 6-3, 6-4, to successfully defend her Stuttgart title in a final rematch that buzzed with brilliant running strikes and bubbled with bad blood between tennis' two top players.

A chilly handshake ended a fiery final that saw Swiatek raise her Stuttgart record to an immaculate 8-0 becoming the first woman since Angelique Kerber in 2016 to defend Stuttgart.

Sabalenka, who nearly nailed Swiatek with a smash in Stuttgart, said she understands how she can topple the top seed.

"It's always great battles. You always have to fight really, really hard against Iga," Sabalenka said. "I'm ready for that.

"I would say that before like our first matches last season when I didn't feel my best, it was really tough to play against her because I didn't have so much weapons. I had my character and that's it.

"Later on the season when I fixed my serve, I understand that actually I can play well against her, I can beat her."

While Sabalenka showed she's willing to do whatever it takes to take down the No. 1, including hit through her,  Swiatek showed she can stand up to the blows of an explosive major champion keep calm and retain her winning edge.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Swiatek has won five of seven meetings vs. Sabalenka, including winning all six sets they've played on clay courts.

Still, Sabalenka believes her ability to rush Swiatek on the forehand side can be a crucial weapon in their rematch.

"I mean, it's going to be really amazing if I can beat a player like Iga on clay court. Yeah, as I said, I don't have to rush things," said Sabalenka, who carries a WTA-best 28-4 record on the season into the final.  "I just have to wait for my opportunity and I just have to, yeah, take it and go for it. I think in Stuttgart I was like going crazy when I had this like slower shot or like shorter shot or like this approach shot."

The 2021 Madrid champion said playing with patience and passion will be key if she's to score her first clay-court win over Swiatek.

"I was just like going crazy. I was rushing things," Sabalenka said of their Stuttgart meeting. "I tried to go for winners. This time I'll just play with more passion, and I'll just wait for a better shot to finish the point."

Photo credit: Adam Pretty/Getty