That’s a wrap for the 2021 Mutua Madrid Open as Aryna Sabalenka beat Ash Barty, 6-0 3-6 6-4, to win the biggest title of her career. The tour heads to Rome next week with another cracking main draw and action getting underway on Monday. I won’t be blogging for Rome. The schedule is so tight from day-to-day and I quite fancy a chilled week of just watching the tennis. If you want to chat Rome then please feel free to use the comments section in this post. I’ll be back for the French Open 😎 .
Final result 🏆
The Barty-Sabalenka head-to-head delivered the pair’s third consecutive three setter in 2021. None of the three matches they have played have been instant classics but all three have been equally fascinating in their own unique way. The match-up presents a real contrast in game styles and personalities, one that i’ve begun to look forward to.
As she has been for much of the tournament, Sabalenka was simply unplayable in the first set. 11 winners to one unforced error. ONE UNFORCED ERROR. Sabalenka served well, as you’d expect by a bagel set. The key factor in the first set was Sabalenka’s returning. Barty’s serve has been the flagship of her game and she won few free points in the first set as Sabalenka managed to get on top of it and land meaningful returns back in court. Ultimately, Sabalenka managed to get the crucial first strike in play and step into the court, not allowing Barty to wield her craft.
Via @Alex Macpherson on Twitter, this was the first bagel Barty has been served since Toronto 2017! Unsurprisingly, Barty was able to reset in the second set as she went back to basics. She cut out the loose errors from the first, improved her first serve percentage and had some help from Sabalenka who had already quadrupled her unforced error count from the entire first set in the first game of the second set! Barty won more and more free points on her serve as Sabalenka became increasingly wayward. One set all.
Barty was the better player for much of the third set and had all the momentum from the second set and serving first. Barty was flying through her service games. Sabalenka began to look out-of-sorts early on in the set. Sabalenka angrily swiped her racquet multiple times and then let out a piercing scream. Sabalenka managed to steady herself and actually channel the frustration positively as she saved two break points at *1-2. Later on, Sabalenka dug out of a *15-30 hole at *3-4. In fact, from there on, Sabalenka won the last 11 points of the match! Barty will want that *4-4 game back. Out of nowhere, Sabalenka broke to love as she bookended the game with superb returns that Barty couldn’t get back into court. Sabalenka served out the win with a clincial service hold.
A little surprised how Barty tailed off at 4-4 in the third set having looked the better player in the third set and considering how clutch she has been of late. Still, what a run Barty is having this year. Ash’s win streak on red clay ends at 16 and her run of consecutive top ten wins ends at nine. I wonder if Ash will play Rome because she has played a hell of a lot of tennis over the past few weeks.
Sabalenka was the best player all week. The manner in which she won this final was noteworthy. We know that she’s capable of peaking, as she did in the first set. What was so impressive is that she went away from that peak level and was on the back foot in the third set. Sabalenka managed to stay with Barty and then take her chances when the opportunity arose.
Interesting stat via Tennis Abstract – this was the first time Sabalenka beat a top ten player in three sets since Beijing 2018. In three setters against the top ten, Sabalenka had lost six in a row before this match. This felt like a hugeee win for Aryna.
Funny moment 🤣
That trophy was in jeopardy when they released the confetti!
Favourite snap 📸
Loved this shot posted by the Madrid Open Twitter page during the third set.
I enjoyed Madrid although the ending was weird. I liked how the matches were spread out at the start of the tournament but not so much when the two halves of the draw came together as a few players got hosed by the scheduling. Not a fan of how the ATP took centre stage on the Thursday and Friday with few women’s matches. It’s almost like they planned it like this…
This week was a firm reminder that Pavs is a very good tennis player. Badosa is one to watch on clay. As it stands, Barty is probably the favourite for the French IMO. Surely Sabalenka is going to break through at a Slam this year and reach at least a quarter-final. I don’t necessarily expect it to be at Rolly G but surrrrely it’s coming this year. Excited to see how Rome pans out and who may step out into the thoroughfare as a contender as the second Slam of the year looms on the horizon…