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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Saturday May 1, 2021

Iga Swiatek

The last two women's singles champions at Roland-Garros are set to collide on Monday at Madrid, as Iga Swiatek and Ash Barty both moved through.

Photo Source: Madrid Open

It will be a clash of the clay-court titans at the Madrid Open on Monday.

Tennis Express

World No.1 Ash Barty, the 2019 Roland Garros champion, and Iga Swiatek, the 2020 Roland Garros champ, both increased their clay-court winning streaks on Saturday to set up a first-time meeting between two of the sports’ most effective players on the red clay.

Barty overcame a second-set wobble to topple Slovenia’s Tamara Zidansek, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, while Swiatek converted her 11th match point to knock off Germany’s Laura Siegemund, 6-3, 6-3.

Barty has now won 13 consecutive matches on the red clay (she did lose to Paula Badosa on the green clay at Charleston in April), and improved to 22-3 on the season and 10-1 in three-setters with her victory over Zidansek.

“A really tough match,” Barty told reporters. “I felt probably my margins were a little bit off today. Made a lot of errors. I mean, I think I was missing in the right way, but still just a foot or two here or there makes a big difference. I felt like there were probably too many loose ones for me today.”

The Aussie knows she’ll have to be better against Swiatek. The 19-year-old Pole improved her current clay winning streak to nine matches—she has won her last 18 sets on red clay.

Though she has never faced Swiatek, Barty says she practiced with the World No.17 in Melbourne earlier his year. She came away impressed, and says the matchup is “certainly one I’ll look forward to.”

“I've hit with her once in Melbourne a few months ago,” Barty said. “She's got a seriously impressive game. Moves very well on the clay court, can slide off both legs, controls her body really well on clay. Likes to use her hopper, gets around, controls the court with her forehand. It's a challenge that we go into with a really clean slate, a little bit of a period of trying to figure each other out and just how our games match up.”

Asked what she learned from needing 11 match points to close out her victory on Saturday, Swiatek smiled and said: “I learned that you have to be patient.”

Swiatek weathered a few exceptional patches from Siegemund, a quarterfinalist at Roland Garros in 2020, and kept her errors to a minimum. She says she is growing more comfortable in the tricky conditions at Madrid, where the balls tend to fly due to the altitude.

“I think it's better and better every day,” she said. “Yesterday on doubles I felt great. I kind of loosened up. Today it was more natural for me.”

Swiatek was taking notes when she practiced with Barty in Melbourne. She says she’ll be ready to face the world-class backhand slice that the Australian uses to her advantage so well.

“She has a great slice,” Swiatek said. “I remember it was hard in Melbourne to keep your legs low, just playing back those slices. I think most of the girls have problem with that. I'm going to remember about that.”

Asked if she felt like she was the underdog, going into facing the World No.1, Swiatek said yes, and added that she’s just anxious to have the experience of facing the woman who is currently riding high at the top of the WTA’s rankings.

“I think I'm going to consider myself as underdog,” she said. “It's always easier to go with that attitude on the match, hopefully. But we're going to see actually.”

She added: “I'm just going to try to use every opportunity that I have, not really focusing that I should win because I shouldn't. It's not going to be my goal. I just want to play a nice match and have fun playing with world No. 1.”


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