Aryna Sabalenka's brutally honest comment on miraculous comeback vs Elena Rybakina

Sabalenka was two points away from losing to Rybakina but then everything changed.

by Dzevad Mesic
Aryna Sabalenka's brutally honest comment on miraculous comeback vs Elena Rybakina
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Aryna Sabalenka was absolutely delighted and thrilled with her stunning Madrid Open comeback win over Elena Rybakina but also admitted that even she was unsure how she managed to pull it off. 

On Thursday, Sabalenka made a very slow start to her Madrid semifinal against Rybakina as the Kazakh was 6-1 5-4 up and had a chance to serve out for the match. Just when it seemed that Rybakina would clinch a routine straight-set win over Sabalenka, the two-time Grand Slam champion went on to claim back-to-back breaks and win three games in a row to force a third set. 

After escaping losing in straight sets, Sabalenka also managed to win a very tight three-set to complete her comeback after over two hours of play.

Before Sabalenka's comeback started, Rybakina was controlling everything and the Belarusian was just fighting to survive. At one point, Sabalenka was two points away from losing the match in two sets. 

“Honestly, I don't know how I did it. I was just trying to do my best, trying to fight for every point. I was hoping to have the opportunity to turn the game around, so I'm super happy I got it. I'm very happy because it was a very tough match," Sabalenka said in her press conference.

"I spent the entire first set fighting against my serve, I couldn't gain confidence until I started winning some games more easily. This gave me extra energy to continue fighting and testing my serve, and then go break him and get back into the match. Getting back to normal with my serve gave me the opportunity to fight for the match.”

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Sabalenka on facing Iga Swiatek in the Madrid final

For a second consecutive year, the two top-ranked players in women's tennis will be squaring off in the Madrid final. When Sabalenka - who turns 26 on Sunday - clashes against 22-year-old Swiatek in Madrid, it will be their first meeting of the year but overall their 10th meeting. 

Ahead of their Madrid final clash, Swiatek owns a 6-3 head-to-head record against Sabalenka. But when the two met in Madrid last year, it was Sabalenka who won 6-3 3-6 6-3. 

While clay may be Swiatek's top surface, Sabalenka has already managed to beat the Pole once on the dirt and she will enter the Madrid final optimistic that she can do the same again. 

“It's going to be a great final, with Iga (Swiatek) we had great matches in the past, they were always very difficult battles. I'm super excited for this final, so I'll do everything I can to get this victory," Sabalenka said of facing Swiatek. 

"We are both improving, we are changing some settings throughout the year, so I am going to watch their games to see if I have to modify my strategy. I insist, the main strategy will once again be to focus on myself and stay aggressive, trusting my shots.”

Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek
Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Sabalenka on the 2023 Madrid final versus Swiatek

On paper, a 6-3 3-6 6-3 scoreline in Sabalenka's favor in the 2023 Madrid final doesn't suggest much. But the whole match featured high-level tennis and Sabalenka and Swiatek putting up masterclass, which led to their 2023 Madrid final encounter being voted as the WTA Match of the Year. 

For Sabalenka, it was the first and lone she was able to beat Swiatek on clay. Now reflecting on it, Sabalenka felt she could not have played any better that day.

“I definitely think that match was the best match I played all year, especially on clay courts. I think the level we reached was super high. I felt very polished with my tennis, we played a very intense and powerful game, I think it was the best final I have played in my entire career," Sabalenka said of the 2023 Madrid final versus Swiatek.

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

On Saturday, Sabalenka will be battling for just her second title of the season. In January, Sabalenka made a great start to the season as she was a finalist in Brisbane before successfully defending her Australian Open title. But after the Australian Open, Sabalenka hit a rough patch and didn't win any back-to-back matches until Madrid.

On the other side, Swiatek has won two titles this year and she will be looking to make it three out of three in her 2024 finals when she meets Sabalenka. 

For Swiatek, the 2024 Madrid final will be extra meaningful since a Madrid title is the only major clay title the Pole is missing and there is no doubt that she will also be motivated to get her revenge over Sabalenka for the 2023 Madrid final loss she suffered.

Aryna Sabalenka Elena Rybakina