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'It can only get better' - Sabalenka leaving Madrid Open 'with positive thoughts' despite Swiatek defeat

By Sports Desk May 05, 2024

Aryna Sabalenka is encouraged by her run to the Madrid Open final and feels her performance levels "can only get better", despite defeat by Iga Swiatek.

In a repeat of last year's showpiece, the world number two went down 7-5 4-6 7-6 (9-7) in a thrilling encounter with the Pole, who avenged her loss from 12 months ago. 

Sabalenka, who saw three championship points go begging, narrowly missed out on becoming only the second woman to win three titles in Madrid after Petra Kvitova. 

Nevertheless, the reigning Australian Open champion reached her first final since triumphing in Melbourne, while extending her winning streak in the Spanish capital to 11 matches before defeat to the world number one.

"I really want to see many more finals against [Swiatek]. I want to see more wins than losses," she said. "But I really hope that we'll be able to keep the level or increase the level every year.

"I'm happy with the level I played, with the effort I put into this match and into this week. I'm leaving Madrid with positive thoughts.

"Probably when I broke [Swiatek] in the third set, I should have been more focused on my serve. But at the same time, it's not like I double-faulted; she played great tennis, and she broke me back.

"I think after the Australian Open, I struggled for a couple of months. It's been intense. I'm super happy that, here in Madrid, I was able to bring it all together and be able to get back to my level. It can only get better from now on."

Swiatek was not to be denied a third title of the season - a tally only matched by Elena Rybakina - and she has now won each of her last seven WTA Tour-level finals since losing out to Sabalenka in Madrid last year.

The three-time French Open champion has also now triumphed in every European clay court tournament at WTA 500 level or higher.

"When I look back in maybe a few years, it will mean a lot," the Pole said. "But for now, I'm just happy that I won this tournament anyway. It doesn't matter to me if I won it before or not. I try to win each tournament that I play.

"I think it was more about who was going to be less stressed and who was going to be able to play with more freedom.

"For most of the match, I felt like some decisions [from her] were pretty courageous. I was sometimes a little bit back. So, in the end, I just wanted not to do that and to also be courageous.

"I don't know what made a difference. I think we both deserved to win; I think it was only about those little points in the tiebreaker."

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