The final is all set for Saturday in Madrid as Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka both won their semi-finals in straight sets. It sets up a third meeting between Barty and Sabalenka in 2021 and their second consecutive final having contested the Stuttgart final two weeks ago. Read on for Thursday’s belated diary with a look back at how the semi-finals played out.
(1) Ash Barty d. Paula Badosa, 6-4 6-3
16 wins and counting for Ash Barty on red clay. This match was a replica of the scoreline when Barty and Badosa met in Charleston but with a different outcome. On that occasion, Barty went two out of 14 on break point conversions. This time round she was much more clinical, converting on three of six opportunities, although two of them were gifted by Badosa with double faults.
The first set was excellent and I thought Badosa played very well. The Spaniard landed a high percentage of first serves in play and seemed to target the Barty backhand, which I think was the right move. Barty’s pressure eventually told though with Badosa serving at *4-5 as Badosa missed a few first serves and Barty was able to land the first strike in on return.
Badosa immediately reset the momentum in the second with a break of the Barty serve. It was shortlived as Barty broke straight back and regained control, this time not losing grip. Barty’s backhand slice caused all kinds of havoc in the second set. I really admire Badosa’s attitude and this was a great run. I think the scoreline perhaps underplays how well she competed in this semi-final. Definitely one to watch for the rest of the clay court season and I think we can safely say none of the seeds at the French will want to draw her in the first round.
(5) Aryna Sabalenka d. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, 6-2 6-3
For a set and three quarters, this was PEAKKKK Sabalenka and one of the most impressive individual performances of the entire year so far. There was just a little wobble at the end as Sabalenka played a poor game at *5-1 in the second set to serve it out but she got it done second time round.
Sabalenka has been in devastating form all week. The serve, the power, it’s all there. She returned brilliantly against Pavs with so many returns back in play. Sabalenka built the points and was surprisingly precise. I also liked how Sabalenka used the angles and hit short cross-court balls which was a nice touch away from the obvious power.
A great tournament from Pavs. Not sure what else she could have done to snap Sabalenka’s rhythm.
Nice touch from Ash to clap Paula off court.
Favourite snap 📸
Final watchlist 📺
A preview of Saturday’s final between Ash Barty and Aryna Sabalenka can be found on the separate page here.