MADRID: Aryna Sabalenka is glad she changed her mind about playing at the Madrid Open.
Two weeks after nearly withdrawing from the tournament because of a muscle injury, Sabalenka was standing on center court with the winner’s trophy in her hands on Saturday.
Sabalenka defeated top-ranked Ashleigh Barty 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 for her 10th WTA title and first on clay.
In the men’s final, 2018 champion Alexander Zverev will face eighth-seeded Matteo Berrettini.
Sabalenka’s victory, coming two weeks after she was hurt in a loss to Barty in the Stuttgart final, will move the Belarus player to No. 4 in the world next week.
“To be honest, after the final in Stuttgart I was injured, I couldn’t even move, I really wanted to withdraw from here,” she said. “And I don’t know how, but my team ... the recovery was really good. In four days they made me feel much better. Somehow I’m here standing as the champion of this tournament.”
It was the second title for Sabalenka this year after winning the season-opener in Abu Dhabi. She also lost to Barty in the Miami quarter-final.
In the men’s semi-finals, Zverev followed his triumph over Rafael Nadal with a win over Dominic Thiem to reach another Madrid Open final. He will face No. 10-ranked Berrettini, who beat Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-4.
No. 6 Zverev defeated No. 4 Thiem 6-3, 6-4 to reach the final again after beating Thiem for the 2018 title.
Zverev broke Thiem’s serve once in the first set and twice in the second on the Magic Box center court.
The German has yet to drop a set, including against Nadal in the Friday quarter-final.
Berrettini didn’t face a break point as he defeated Ruud to return to a final after winning Belgrade two weeks ago. He will be trying to win his first Masters 1000 final.
In the women’s doubles final, Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova, both from the Czech Republic, defeated Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Demi Schuurs of France 6-4, 6-3.
Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2021