Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka ready for blockbuster rematch in Internazionali BNL d’Italia final

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Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka will prepare for a blockbuster rematch at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia final in Rome at 4pm on Saturday – live on Sky Sports.

Two weeks ago in the Mutua Madrid Open final, Sabalenka failed to capitalise on three championship points as Swiatek rallied to a gripping 7-4 4-6 7-6 (9-7) victory to seal her first title at the event.

The world No 1 improved to 7-3 in head-to-head match-ups with her Belarusian counterpart.

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Highlights of a sensational Madrid Open WTA final between Swiatek and Sabalenka

We meet again…

Since 1990, only Steffi Graf and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario have faced each other more often in WTA level clay finals (10 times) than Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka (five)

“I think the level is there, the tennis is there, that I’ve got everything to get this win,” Sabalenka said of facing Swiatek. “I just have to focus on myself, I guess, and not rush things, wait for the right shot to finish the point.”

Swiatek is 3-1 against Sabalenka in finals, also winning at Stuttgart in 2022 and 2023. Sabalenka’s lone title win over Swiatek came in the 2023 Madrid final.

Swiatek can become just the third women’s player to pull off the Madrid-Rome double in the last 15 years.

“I’m not really thinking about the statistics or history, and it’s easier that way because it makes you play more relaxed and freely,” said Swiatek, who is also seeking her third Rome title in four years.

“I’m going to play the best tennis I can in the final and if I take it easy step by step then it’ll be better than thinking about winning.”

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Colin Fleming and Anne Keothavong give a masterclass on how Swiatek and Sabalenka execute their forehands

Pain-free Sabalenka keeps close eye on back injury

Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus and Iga Swiatek of Poland meet at the net prior to the Women's Singles Final match on Day Twelve of Mutua Madrid Open at La Caja Magica on May 04, 2024 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
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Swiatek (right) leads the head-to-head 7-3 ahead of their latest meeting in the Italian capital

Australian Open champion Sabalenka said she is playing without pain following a lower back injury in Rome but will not hesitate to pull out of Saturday’s final if the issue flares up and threatens her French Open participation.

Sabalenka sustained the injury during her fourth-round clash with Elina Svitolina, where the Belarusian needed a long medical timeout and saved three match points to prevail as the contest spilled into the early hours of Tuesday.

She skipped practice and spent her rest day undergoing treatment before easing past former Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-4 in the next round and Danielle Collins 7-5 6-2 in the semi-finals.

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Highlights of the semi-final between Sabalenka and Danielle Collins in Rome

“I was considering retiring from the tournament. Lucky me, I had an extra day. I was doing a lot of recovery. I’m still doing lots of exercise, treatments, taking care of my lower back. It’s getting better. I guess we’re on the right way,” Sabalenka said.

“I’m doing everything to recover as fast as I can and to be ready for Paris. Right now I’m feeling great. I’m not in pain during matches.

“Of course, if something is going to happen in the match I’m going to pull out, because Paris is around the corner. Hopefully it’s not going to happen. I feel like it’s not going to.”

Sabalenka paid tribute to the physiotherapists in Rome.

“It was a crazy injury. I thought, ‘okay, I’m done in Rome’. But we did a great treatment, great physios,” Sabalenka said.

“I really appreciate the physio that helped me to stay alive and actually fix the problem.”

The French Open begins on May 26.

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