"In the beginning, it was really tough to play against her," Aryna Sabalenka smilingly told the Tennis.com media. It was her experiences with the determined Australian, Ashleigh Barty that finally led to a Madrid Open victory of 6-0, 3-6, 6-4.
Three times was the charm for Sabalenka as she'd lost to Barty in the Stuttgart Open final just a few weeks ago. "She's number one, she's on top and she's a great player," the Belarusian said truthfully.
It was also at the Miami Open quarterfinal in March that she would be defeated by Barty again in three hard-fought sets. The clay in Spain was a different matter and Sabalenka pushed her aggression to the max to capture the Madrid Open title.
She hadn't lost a set only until her dust-up with Barty in the Spanish Championship match. "I think after the first few games, I would say I kind of destroyed her a little bit, Sabalenka said with a lot of sarcasm.
She would bagel the Australian with surprising speed, leaving Barty looking worried as to how she'd ever put a game on the scoreboard.
Sabalenka's confidence was soaring as the second set began.
"..She was playing high balls and mixing it with slice..."
the Belarusian described her opponent's game and thought she'd continue to dismantle it. The idea of winning a straight-set championship match must have been on her mind but that was hardly the case. Barty corrected the errors she showed in the opening set and became fluid again with her strategies and gamesmanship.
Sabalenka found Barty's slices and aggressive play difficult to handle and had too many unforced errors and poor shot selections resulting in losing 3-6 in the second set. Ashleigh Barty is known for her comebacks and had done it multiple times after losing a set to win a match but it never happened this time.
The Australian might have been tired from constant touring to sink a match like this. She has won three titles so far this year: at Melbourne-Australia, the Miami Open and then at the Stuttgart Open with victory over Sabalenka.
The Belarusian was defiant to win this tournament and did just that. "You can't win 'em all..." Barty said realistically. There was no justifying how strong Sabalenka plays and her opponent commented that "..she takes the ball out of my court...takes the racquet out of my hand when she serves the way she did in the first set..."
Sabalenka's super dictating manner had knocked down many opponents before. Barty realizes that she didn't do well when she had her chances and simply remarked on the Belarusian's win and her loss that "..she grabbed her opportunity and I didn't grab mine. Not a lot in that match at all."