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Swiatek bests Sabalenka in another chapter of their scintillating rivalry

Iga Swiatek reaffirms her titanium grip on clay courts with successive Masters 1000 titles against her fiercest rival Aryna Sabalenka. But this rivalry is just heating up, and could be amongst the best in the sport’s history.


Everyone knew that Iga Swiatek was the best clay-courter in the world, but the level she has shown on the surface during the early stages of this clay season have been astonishing.


Just two weeks on from her exceptional run to the title in Madrid, Swiatek has now added the Rome Masters title to her growing clay court accolades. Swiatek put together another sensational performance to once again beat Aryna Sabalenka, but this time by a much more convincing margin of 6-2, 6-3 in a little under 1 hour 30 mins.


With the combination of immense spin, power and depth that Swiatek creates off her forehand, when she is on song there is hardly a more daunting prospect in sport than attempting to beat her on clay. Such dominance hasn’t been seen on clay since the domination of Nadal.


With such performances in Madrid and Rome, Swiatek will surely be a heavy favourite to win Roland Garros at the end of the month.


But perhaps rather than just focussing on the success of Swiatek, we should also take the moment to acknowledge, and be very excited, about the rivalry brewing between herself and Sabalenka.


Swiatek and Sabalenka are by far the two best players in the world and it is immensely entertaining whenever the pair share the court together. Tennis thrives off of the best playing the best on regular occasions and the last few weeks have been an absolute treat.


Just two weeks ago, the pair met in the final of the Madrid Masters. In what is likely to be considered as one of the best WTA finals in history. Swiatek was again victorious but this time at a score of 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7) in a match that lasted over 3 hours.


Women’s tennis is booming at the moment and a big reason is the eyes that the Swiatek and Sabalenka rivalry is bringing to the sport. Make no mistake about it, with all the talk surrounding Sinner and Alcaraz, this has the potential to challenge some of the great rivalries in tennis.


The only slight disappointment is that the pair haven’t met more often in Grand Slams, with only the singular meeting in the semi-finals of the US Open in 2022. But with both still being reasonably young in their careers, the pairs’ ceiling is remarkably high.


They have the perfect clash of styles, with Swiatek benefiting from large amounts of top spin, renowned on the clay courts, while Sabalenka hits the ball flatter and marginally harder, preferring grass or hard courts.


What is remarkable about Sabalenka in particular is her consistency. Since the 2022 US Open, where she lost to Swiatek in the semi-finals, Sabalenka has made at least the semi-finals of every Grand Slam.


Sabalenka will be gutted that she hasn’t been able to get over the line in either meeting with Swiatek this month, but will still be confident going into Roland Garros. There is no shame in losing to Swiatek on clay, and Sabalenka’s performance in Rome should give her particular confidence that she can compete with Swiatek on the surface.


Tennis thrives on these compelling rivalries, Djokovic/Federer/Nadal, Evert and Navratilova, Borg and McEnroe, Court and King. Sinner and Alcaraz have brought a new enthralling rivalry to the ATP, but the one brewing in the WTA is just as fascinating.


Sabalenka and Swiatek are the present and future of the WTA and if they continue to meet then I’m sure their rivalry can become a gold standard in women’s sport.


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