Iga Swiatek stormed to her third Italian Open title following a dominant 6-2 6-3 victory over Aryna Sabalenka.

The world number one took just under an hour-and-a-half to deny the world number two, and complete a hat-trick of triumphs in Rome.

The pair were contesting a second final in as many events, with Swiatek saving three championship points before eventually prevailing in the Madrid Open showpiece a fortnight ago.

However, it was one-way traffic this time around. The Pole converted two out of three break points as she controlled the opening set.

Sabalenka was the last player to deny Swiatek in a WTA final, that coming at last year's Madrid Open.

Although, the second seed was helpless as her opponent broke again in game seven of the second set, before wrapping up a fourth title of the season ahead of the French Open later this month.

Data debrief

Landing her third Italian Open title before turning 23, Swiatek is only the second player to achieve that feat after Gabriela Sabatini.

In fact, at 22 years and 352 days old, she is the youngest player to win 10 WTA 1000 titles since the introduction of the format in 2009.

The Pole also became the third player to triumph in Madrid and Rome during the same season, after Dinara Safina (2009) and Serena Williams (2013).

Aryna Sabalenka defeated Danielle Collins 7-5 6-2 to set up yet another meeting with Iga Swiatek at the Italian Open.

Having defeated Collins en route to the final of the Madrid Open, which she lost to Swiatek, Sabalenka repeated the trick with a straight sets win over the American in Thursday's semi-final.

And the Belarusian's reward will be an immediate rematch with Swiatek.

The duo have met 10 times, including in Madrid earlier this month, with Swiatek winning seven times and Sabalenka claiming three victories.

This will be Sabalenka's first appearance in the Italian Open final.

She is the sixth player, along with Simona Halep (2017), Dinara Safina (2009), Serena Williams (2013), Ons Jabeur (2022), and Swiatek (2024) to have reached the final of both Madrid and Rome in the same season.

Data Debrief: Perfect record

Collins is the only player against whom Sabalenka has registered six wins without a loss in WTA events, while only against Maria Sakkari and Elise Mertens does she have more wins in her career in such events (seven each).

The final will mark the fourth meeting on clay between Swiatek and Sabalenka as world number one and two, equalling Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova for the most meetings on the surface as the WTA's top-two ranked players.

Aryna Sabalenka is through to her second Italian Open semi-final after a straight-sets victory over Jelena Ostapenko on Wednesday.

The Belarusian, who recovered from a lower back injury sustained in her previous match against Elina Svitolina, breezed through 6-2, 6-4 after just 72 minutes on the court.

Sabalenka broke her serve in the third and fifth games, with Ostapenko opening the door with two double faults, while a single break in the seventh game settled the second set.

The second seed almost let it slip with her only double fault but came back with two big serves to close out the win.

Sabalenka will face Danielle Collins or Victoria Azarenka in the semi-final on Friday. 

Data Debrief: Top 10

Sabalenka (10) has become only the second player to reach 10 or more WTA-1000 semi-finals since the start of the 2020 season, along with Iga Swiatek (16).

With Sabalenka joining Swiatek and Coco Gauff, it is the first time the WTA’s top three players have reached the semi-final at the same WTA event since Roland Garros in 2013 – excluding the WTA Tour Finals.

Sabalenka has spent the most time out on the court in WTA clay events in 2024, with this match bringing her up to 25 hours and 34 minutes.

 

Aryna Sabalenka dominated Dayana Yastremska to reach the fourth round of the Italian Open on Sunday.

Sabalenka, who claimed Australian Open glory for the second time earlier this year without dropping a set, eased to a 6-4 6-2 victory over Yastremska.

Yastremska headed into the third-round contest having beaten Sabalenka in all three of their previous meetings, but the world number two found a crucial break of serve in the seventh game of the opening set before going on to hold twice more to take the ascendancy.

Yastremska's resolve was broken further in an epic third game of the second set, surviving six break points before Sabalenka finally got over the line to tighten her grip on the match.

Sabalenka didn't look back from there, breaking Yastremska again before going on to seal her place in the fourth round.

Sabalenka will take on either Sara Errani or Anna Kalinskaya in the fourth round as she looks to win the Italian Open for the first time ahead of the French Open later this month, where she will bid to improve on her semi-final appearance last year.

Data debrief

Since 2018, when Sabalenka achieved her first WTA 1000 win, she is now the player with the joint-most wins in such events (90, equalling Iga Swiatek).

Sabalenka may have lost her three previous games against Yastremska, but the last meeting between the pair was in 2020, and the two-time grand slam champion showed how much her game has progressed since then as she won all nine of her service games while breaking her Ukrainian opponent three times on her way to victory.

Iga Swiatek will not rest on her laurels after overcoming Aryna Sabalenka in last week's Madrid Open final, pledging to learn from that gruelling battle ahead of the Italian Open.

Swiatek toppled Sabalenka in an enthralling battle between the world's top two players on Saturday, saving three championship points en route to a 7-5 4-6 7-6 (9-7) win in over three hours on court.

The world number one has now won every European clay court tournament at WTA 500 level or higher, including back-to-back triumphs in Rome in 2021 and 2022.

As she prepares to open her Italian Open campaign against either Caroline Dolehide or a qualifier on Friday, Swiatek is determined to ensure she does not let her level drop.

Speaking during an appearance on the WTA Insider Podcast, Swiatek said: "I feel like after such a match, I deserve a two-month vacation, but I can't have that so I'll trade it for six tiramisus or something!

"I can let it go and rest and just forget about it, or I can really take a big lesson from it, so it depends on what is going to happen in the next few weeks in terms of how I analyse it."

Swiatek's latest win – her seventh in 10 meetings with Sabalenka – saw her put further distance between herself and the world number two in the WTA rankings.

However, the four-time grand slam champion knows she cannot afford to let up, given the fierce competition on the WTA tour.

"I'm not thinking about Aryna when I'm practising, but it's more that I know that the competition is big and if I stop for a while I might be pushed out," Swiatek said.

"But I had this kind of thing in Rome 2022, with the final against Ons [Jabeur]. Physically, I was so tired. The rallies were long, Ons was playing a pretty tricky game. 

"So after that game for the next few years, when I was doing the worst practices on court and I was dying, I was thinking about that game."

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."

Iga Swiatek clinched the Madrid Open title after downing defending champion Aryna Sabalenka in a gruelling final.

In a rematch of last year's final, the top two players in the world did battle in thrilling fashion on Saturday, with Swiatek eventually prevailing 7-5 4-6 7-6 (9-7) after three hours and 14 minutes on court.

It marked Swiatek's first title in Madrid, and the Pole had to do it the hard way, saving three championship points before finally coming out on top in the tie-break, which she sealed with her second championship point when Sabalenka sent a backhand long.

This victory means Swiatek, who has won the French Open on three occasions, has now won every European clay court tournament at WTA 500 level or higher.

It was also Swiatek's seventh victory over Sabalenka, from what was their 10th meeting.

Data Debrief: Clay queen Swiatek rolls on

Swiatek has now won her past seven WTA Tour-level finals, since the defeat to Sabalenka in Madrid last season, while only Elena Rybakina can match her haul of three titles so far in 2024.

This was the longest singles final of the year so far on the WTA Tour, while it was the fourth show-piece match in a WTA 1000 event to be decided by a third set tie-break.

Since the format’s introduction in 2009, only Serena Williams (13) and Victoria Azarenka (10) have more WTA 1000 titles than Swiatek, whose tally of nine equals the efforts of Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova.

Meanwhile, of players to have made at least 10 appearances at clay court tournaments, only Chris Evert, Margaret Court and Steffi Graf have a higher ratio of victories in the Open Era than Swiatek (8/18).

In fact, Swiatek has now claimed a tournament victory in 31 per cent (9/29) of the WTA 1000 main draws she has entered, the highest percentage of any player since the format’s introduction in 2009.

Aryna Sabalenka will face Iga Swiatek in the Madrid Open final for the second year running after beating Elena Rybakina 1-6 7-5 7-6 (7-5) in a semi-final classic on Thursday.

Fourth seed Rybakina made a flying start and took the opener within just 25 minutes, but Sabalenka hit back in a topsy-turvy second set featuring five breaks of serve to force a decider. 

Both players were imperious on their own serve from there, with a tie-break required to split them. Sabalenka's power looked likely to overwhelm Rybakina as she raced into a 5-1 lead, but the former Wimbledon champion clung on by saving two match points on her own serve.

Sabalenka would not be denied third time around, though, a huge serve giving Rybakina no chance as the defending champion teed up a rematch with Swiatek, who she beat in the Spanish capital in last year's showpiece match.

Data Debrief: Sabalenka's unwanted record

Sabalenka has dropped 60 games at this year's Madrid Open. That makes her the player with the most games dropped en route to reaching the final since the tournament's inception in 2009.

The world number two had to dig deep in a match which saw Rybakina win more total points (99 to 95), but she will not mind one bit if she goes on to capture a third Madrid Open title on Saturday.

Elena Rybakina saved two match points as she outlasted Yulia Putintseva to win a dramatic encounter 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 7-5 in the Madrid Open quarter-finals on Wednesday.

The world number four was on the brink of defeat at 5-2 down in the third set, with her fellow Kazakhstani Putintseva eyeing a third win in as many head-to-head meetings between the pair.

However, Rybakina came up with one of the shots of the tournament on Putintseva's first match point, capitalising on a drop shot clipping the net cord to produce a nonchalant winner.

The 2022 Wimbledon champion didn't look back from that moment on, producing back-to-back breaks before holding her nerve through a tense final service game, converting her fourth match point to wrap up a gruelling two-hour, 48-minute contest.

Rybakina has now won 16 successive matches on clay, and she will face either Aryna Sabalenka or Mirra Andreeva in the semi-finals on Thursday.

Data Debrief: Rybakina rampant 

Rybakina is the form player on the WTA circuit, with Wednesday's win her 30th of 2024, more than any other player.

She is just the second player to win 30 or more matches in tournaments starting within the first four months of a calendar year, after Iga Swiatek managed 32 victories during the same span in 2022. Swiatek, of course, went on to win the French Open and US Open titles that season.  

Aryna Sabalenka was forced to go the distance again at the Madrid Open as she battled past Robin Montgomery on Sunday.

Sabalenka, the reigning Madrid Open champion, needed three sets to win her second-round tie against Magda Linette on Friday, and the second seed did not have an easy ride against American Montgomery.

However, she eventually got over the line, triumphing 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 to tee up a last-16 meeting with Danielle Collins, who defeated Jaqueline Cristian 3-6 6-4 6-1.

Collins has now reeled off 15 straight wins, having won the Miami Open and Charleston Open in recent weeks, and has progressed to the last 16 in Madrid for the first time in her career.

The American said: "I've been doing so well the last couple of weeks, I think the girls know that when they come out and play me, they've got to go for it. 

"That certainly was taking place the last two matches, some big shots that I've had to counter, and be able to react quickly."

Data Debrief: Sabalenka up there with Serena

Sabalenka has now won 14 of her 17 matches at the Madrid Open, which she won in 2023 and 2021.

Since the inception of the tournament, only Serena Williams (15) has won more of her first 17 matches at the event.

Aryna Sabalenka got her Madrid Open campaign started with a 6-4 3-6 6-3 win over Magda Linette on Friday.

Sabalenka could not quite hit her peak form against Linette, but the world number two nevertheless got the job done after going the distance.

The Belarusian is hunting a record-equalling third title in Madrid, where she is the reigning champion, though she has not won back-to-back matches at a tournament since winning the Australian Open.

"It's not about being confident," Sabalenka said. "It's about how much you're ready to do to get it. It's about the hard work and to be ready, be ready for the big fights. I feel like confidence is not going to help you in those big matches. It's about staying there and fighting for it."

Data Debrief

Sabalenka (70 per cent, 56-24) is now one of five active players since 2020 to hold a winning percentage of 70 per cent or higher at WTA-1000 events.

Iga Swiatek, Simona Halep, Elena Rybakina and Jessica Pegula are the other players to feature on that list.

Paula Badosa admits it will be “uncomfortable” facing best friend Aryna Sabalenka at the Miami Open following the death of the world number two’s boyfriend Konstantin Koltsov.

Sabalenka was pictured on social media practising on Tuesday a day after 42-year-old former ice hockey player Koltsov died in Miami in what police described as an “apparent suicide”.

Her first match is due to be on Thursday against Spaniard Badosa, who defeated Simona Halep on the Romanian’s return from a doping ban.

 

Badosa said of Sabalenka: “Yesterday I spoke with her a lot of time. This morning the same. So I know what she’s going through. I know the entire situation, what is happening.

“That for me is a little bit shocking also to go through that because at the end she’s my best friend and I don’t want her to suffer. It’s a very tough situation.

“At the same point, playing against her, it’s also uncomfortable. But I don’t really want to talk about it because I said I’m not going to talk about it. She’s my best friend and I promised that.

“She’s a strong woman. I think she will get the power from somewhere. I hope it’s going to be a battle, a good match.”

Caroline Wozniacki became emotional talking about the situation during her press conference, the Dane saying: “I can’t even imagine what she’s going through right now.

 “I’m also tearing up. It’s such a terrible situation. It’s so hard. I reached out to her and I told her that I was here if she needed anything.

 “I love Aryna. I think she’s such a great person. She’s always so happy and out there. To see her go through that, it’s heartbreaking.

“Everyone grieves in a different way. She was walking past today. I was giving her her space. I let her know that if she ever needs anything, I’m here, we’re here for her.”

Koltsov, who played in the NHL for the Pittsburgh Penguins, had been a regular presence supporting Sabalenka at tournaments.

The news was announced by Russia ice hockey team Salavat Yulaev Ufa, where Koltsov had been assistant coach.

A statement on the club’s website read: “It is with deep sorrow that we inform you that Salavat Yulaev coach Konstantin Koltsov has passed away. He was a strong and cheerful person, he was loved and respected by players, colleagues, and fans.

“Konstantin Evgenievich forever wrote himself into the history of our club. Koltsov won the Russian Championship and the Gagarin Cup as part of Salavat Yulaev and did a great job on the team’s coaching staff.

“The hockey club Salavat Yulaev expresses its condolences to the family and friends of Konstantin Evgenievich Koltsov.”

It is the second tragedy to hit 25-year-old Sabalenka, whose father Sergey, also a former ice hockey player, died in 2019 at the age of 43.

Jannik Sinner became tennis’ newest grand slam champion at the Australian Open while Aryna Sabalenka successfully defended her title.

The year’s first grand slam brought plenty of long matches and late nights and set the tone for an intriguing season to come.

Here, the PA news agency picks out five things we learned at Melbourne Park.

Changing of the guard

The shifting sands of the sport have moved extremely slowly over the last decade, but there is no doubt change is here – and more is on the way. No one will be writing off Novak Djokovic after one off-colour tournament – he still reached the semi-finals despite being nowhere near his best – but power is moving towards the youngest generation, led by Carlos Alcaraz and now Sinner. Rafael Nadal’s comeback adds extra intrigue heading towards the French Open.

Sabalenka setting the standard

Iga Swiatek remains world number one but not by much and, based on the last five slams, Sabalenka can lay claim to be the best across all surfaces. While Swiatek will be favoured to sweep all before her on clay again, she has work to do to prove she can be a consistent force on hard courts and grass. Sabalenka was awesome in Melbourne, never dropping a set and maintaining a sense of emotional calm that the rest of the locker room would have observed with some trepidation.

New Norrie

Cameron Norrie has been Britain’s Mr Dependable over the last three years, using his physical and mental prowess to battle his way into the top 10. But in Melbourne the 28-year-old showed a whole new attacking side to his game that was a joy to watch. Norrie pulled off the best slam victory of his career over Casper Ruud in the third round and pushed Alexander Zverev all the way to a deciding tie-break before bowing out. If he continues on the same path, he can put himself right in the mix at the biggest tournaments.

Raducanu back on track

Emma Raducanu may only have made the second round of her comeback slam before a tight loss to Wang Yafan but the signs were very encouraging. The 21-year-old played with conviction, looked good physically barring an unfortunate stomach bug and, most encouragingly, appeared happy and excited to be back on tour. It will take Raducanu time to find her level but there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, especially if she sticks with new coach Nick Cavaday for a sustained period.

Late night addiction

Tournament director Craig Tiley’s claim that extending the event to 15 days would somehow fix the problem of matches going late into the night was always farcical, and so it proved. Even only having two matches in the day session did not guarantee the night session began on time, and Daniil Medvedev’s second-round clash with Emil Ruusuvuori did not finish until 3.39am. Until tennis accepts that matches are becoming ever longer and schedules accordingly, nothing will change.

Aryna Sabalenka believes she can bring her Australian Open dominance to other grand slams after lifting a second successive title in Melbourne.

The Belarusian will stay world number two behind Iga Swiatek but that could well change this year if Sabalenka can maintain her impressive consistency at the majors.

In the last five slams, Sabalenka has won two titles, reached another final on hard courts at the US Open and never lost before the semi-finals, while Swiatek’s only run to the last four saw her retain her French Open title.

Getting the better of Swiatek at Roland Garros is likely to be Sabalenka’s biggest challenge but she certainly has the game for grass and, with more composure, could have reached all four finals last year.

“I think last year I proved that I can play on each surface,” said the 25-year-old. “I think those two semi-finals I got super emotional.

“I played against incredible players, and they just played an unbelievable level, but I felt like I got super emotional and I just let those semis go away.

“But I definitely think that if I’m going to keep working like I’m working right now, and if we’re going to keep building what we are building right now, I’m definitely able to do the same on the clay and on the grass.

“So then I’ll just keep working hard and hopefully this year I’ll achieve the same goal.”

It was a statement fortnight from Sabalenka, who did not drop a set through seven matches, with only Coco Gauff in the semi-finals taking more than five games off her.

Speaking on Eurosport, former British number one Laura Robson said: “To deliver that kind of performance across the two weeks, getting better and better, I feel like the rest of the players in the locker room are thinking ‘uh oh’ for the rest of the season.”

There is certainly no sign of Sabalenka being happy with two titles, and the calm manner with which she demolished the rest of the field will give her rivals plenty of pause for thought.

She is now two slam titles behind Swiatek, and was relieved to escape the box of one-slam wonder.

“Actually it’s been in my mind that I didn’t want to be that player who won it and then disappeared,” she said.

“I just wanted to show that I’m able to be consistently there and I’m able to win another one. I really hope that (it will be) more than two, but for me it was really important.”

Sabalenka’s ambitions are shared by her coaches, with fitness trainer Jason Stacy, saying: “We’re the coaches in our different areas but during the match and straight after the match, we’re already talking about the things we need to work on.”

Stacy has been walking around Melbourne Park with Sabalenka’s signature written in pen by the world number two on his bald head.

It is part of the team’s efforts to keep things light and fun off court, although Stacy is ready to draw the line at the next suggestion.

“It might get worse actually,” he said. “Now they’re trying to say I’ve got to get a tattoo of this on my head. I’m like, ‘I don’t know about that’. Every tournament we always find some thing we’re doing and we just kind of go with that.”

Aryna Sabalenka’s ruthless defence of her Australian Open title was powered by a sense of fun and new-found inner calm.

The world number two lifted her first grand slam trophy at Melbourne Park 12 months ago and has been untouchable this fortnight.

She did not drop a set in seven matches and defeated first-time grand slam finalist Zheng Qinwen 6-3 6-2 to become the first player since compatriot Victoria Azarenka 11 years ago to claim back-to-back titles.

“I don’t know how to describe my emotions,” said Sabalenka. “But definitely I’m super, super happy and proud of everything I was able to achieve so far. I’m just happy with the level I played today.”

Zheng, who did not face a top-50 player through the first six rounds, had hoped to emulate the watching Li Na and claim the title for China a decade on.

But the 21-year-old, the 12th first-time slam finalist in the women’s game in the last three years, was up against it from the start and Sabalenka wrapped up victory in only 76 minutes despite a brief disruption from pro-Palestine protesters.

Sabalenka has ridden emotional highs and lows throughout her career, overcoming the yips on her serve two years ago and several bruising semi-final losses before she reached her first final 12 months ago.

She showed tremendous consistency at the slams last year, reaching at least the last four in each one, but there were still crushing defeats in big matches, most painfully in the US Open final against Coco Gauff, after which Sabalenka was seen backstage smashing her rackets.

But in Melbourne this year the 25-year-old has been flawless, with her only testing match coming in the semi-finals against Gauff and resulting in a cathartic victory.

“I think it’s all come with experience,” she said. “There is not going to be big wins without really tough losses. Of course I was very down after those matches. I was crying, I was smashing the racket, as we see. I was really crazy.

“But then, after a day or two, we sit down with the team, thinking, ‘OK, what do we have to do to fix it and to make sure this will never happen again’.”

Sabalenka’s ferocity on court is at odds with her fun-loving persona off it, and her team can often be seen joking around behind the scenes, while a tradition this year was for the Belarusian to write her signature on her fitness trainer Jason Stacy’s bald head.

Helping her find an emotional equilibrium during matches has been a lengthy process, with Stacy saying: “That’s been the plan for years. First making her more aware of what’s happening.

“It’s been a big part. She’s just hiding it really well, and it’s not guaranteed it’s going to be that way every week. But that’s what makes her so dangerous and so powerful as well that part of her. It’s beautiful.”

Sabalenka said with a smile: “It’s actually good that I’m two different people on and off the court, because if I would be the same person that I am on the court off the court, I think I wouldn’t have my team around me and I think I would be alone.

“It takes me so much time to become who I am right now on court, to have this control of myself, and to understand myself better.”

Sabalenka seized control of the match from the start, opening up a 3-0 lead before Zheng gained a foothold courtesy of some impressive serving.

Three double faults in one game was a disastrous start to the second set, though, and even four missed match points could not derail Sabalenka.

Zheng, who will break into the top 10 for the first time on Monday, was disappointed with her performance, saying: “To play against her I think it’s so important to hold your own service game. But I couldn’t do that, especially at the beginning.

“I didn’t perform my best. That’s really a pity for me because I really wanted to show better than that.”

Sabalenka used her acceptance speech to thank her family, and a second slam title fulfilled the dream she shared with her late father Sergey, who died in 2019.

“It was really important,” she said. “Of course he’s my biggest motivation. He’s been everything for me.

“But right now I have my mom, my sister, who is here with me, and I feel like I have to think about them. But I just feel that he’s always with me. I’m very thankful for everything he did for me, and I think if not him I wouldn’t be here.

“Now, having two grand slam titles, it definitely gives me more confidence and belief in myself. I just have this, knowing that all my life it wasn’t a waste of time and I was doing the right thing. I’m where I’m meant to be.”

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