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The week in tennis: Swiatek and Rublev prevail, Nadal bids farewell to the Madrid Open

The week in tennis: Swiatek and Rublev prevail, Nadal bids farewell to the Madrid Open

Women’s tennis has been criticized in recent years for its lack of true rivalries and constant changeover at the top of the rankings. But over the past two seasons, a strong group of elite players has emerged.

And that was even more evident on Saturday, after a truly epic Madrid Open final between world No. 1 Iga Swiatek and No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, cementing their collective dominance in the sport and their ability to bring out the best in one another’s games.

In a rematch of the 2023 final, the two battled and pushed one another to the brink for well over three hours, trading winners and celebratory screams, and ultimately needing a third-set tiebreak to determine the champion. Swiatek, the three-time French Open champion, took the first set, but Sabalenka — who won last year’s title — stormed back to force a decider.

And what followed in the final set was a pure battle of wills and jaw-dropping moments with neither player ready to concede.

With Sabalenka just seconds away from successfully defending her title, Swiatek saved two match points at 5-6 in the third set and ultimately forced the tiebreak. Facing yet another match point in the breaker, Swiatek found a way to remain in the match and then win 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7). When it was finally over, Swiatek collapsed onto the ground in what appeared to be a mix of elation and relief. She later called it the “most intense and crazy final” she had ever played.

“Who is going to say that women’s tennis is boring now, right?” Swiatek said moments later in an on-court interview. “Congrats as well to Aryna because we both had an amazing effort today.”

The victory marked the 20th career title for the 22-year-old Swiatek. She is the youngest WTA player to achieve the milestone since Caroline Wozniacki in 2012, and the first player — male or female — born in this millennium to do so. Swiatek has now won nine 1000-level titles, trailing just Victoria Azarenka for most among active players. Saturday also gave Swiatek a 7-3 career edge over Sabalenka — but it seems certain we’ll see much more of this rivalry.

Here’s what else you might have missed from Madrid and around the tennis world last week:

Rublev’s renaissance

Andrey Rublev arrived in Madrid on a four-match losing…

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