The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Sabalenka in great shape in Madrid / Talent to spare in Rome

May 14, 2021

Photo: Pascal Ratthé

Criticized in recent years despite her nine WTA titles, it was a dominant Aryna Sabalenka who came to Madrid. 

Seen by some as having the potential to turn the tour upside-down, the Belarusian literally blasted her way through the tournament in Spain. She quickly eliminated Daria Kasatkina (6-3, 6-3), Jessica Pegula (6-1, 6-2) and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (6-2, 6-3) before defeating in the final none other than the world number one Ashleigh Barty 6-0, 3-6, 6-4. Sabalenka thus won her 10th title and her first on clay to confirm her place among the world’s elites. 

However, one question still remains on everyone’s lips: will the Belarusian, now fourth in the rankings, be able to maintain this pace in order to climb to the top and win her first Grand Slam? Only time will tell, but her performance in Madrid can only make her fans dream. 

A few surprises along the way 

In a tournament featuring many top players, such as Barty (1), Naomi Osaka (2) and Simona Halep (3), a few athletes with lower rank were still able to spice things up: 

– Czech Karolina Muchova eliminated consecutively Osaka and Greek Maria Sakkari (16), thus reaching her 3rd quarters in 2021. Muchova, we recall, had also reached the semis at the Australian Open. She’s definitely one to watch moving forward.  

– Spain’s Paula Badosa (62nd at the time of the tournament and now 42nd) beat Belinda Belinda Bencic (11) to join Ashleigh Barty in the semifinals. For the 23-year-old, it was her best career result at 1000 tournament. 

Theses surprises, that are becoming more and more recurrent, are great news for a tour showing more depth than ever. The future looks very bright for women’s tennis. 

Gabriela Dabrowski continues to impress 

Good news for Canadian tennis: Ottawa native Gabriela Dabrowski secured a berth in the women’s doubles final with her partner Demi Schuurs (Netherlands). Ranked third in Madrid, the pair lost to Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova after a well-disputed game. 

Dabrowski—the most accomplished doubles players in the history of Canadian tennis—will have to wait a little longer for her tenth title. Besides her doubles wins, she also holds two Grand Slam mixed doubles crowns (Australian Open 2019 and Roland-Garros 2017) and two additional WTA finals. 

However, thanks to her presence in the final, she gained a place in the world rankings in doubles and is now ranked 11th. 

Rome: a preview of Roland-Garros? 

The BNL Italy International in Rome is still underway and the tournament could count on a well-stocked draw. Besides Bianca Andreescu, all the world top 10 were present to try to win this second 1000 tournament in two weeks. 

American Serena Williams (8) was notably making her comeback on the courts, having not played a game since the Australian Open. Although she finally lost in the second round to Nadia Podoroska, fans will remain on the lookout for her next performances, especially with the French Open coming soon. 

Some exciting matches coming-up: 

  • Cori Gauff, who advanced to the quarters by defeating Madrid champion Aryna Sabalenka in two sets of 7-5, 6-3, will now face the other Madrid finalist Ashleigh Barty. The American, who is only 17, will face a player ranked world number one for the first time in her career. 
  • Elina Svitolina (6) will face 19-year-old Polish Iga Swiatek in the quarterfinals after defeating Spain’s Garbine Muguruza yesterday. If she wins, she will potentially have the chance to get a revenge match against Ashleigh Barty, the latter having recently defeated her in Stuttgart and Miami.
  • We will also watch closely the quarters match between Croatia’s Petra Martic (25) and American Jessica Pegula (31). Pegula caused a surprise early in the tournament by defeating Naomi Osaka in the second round. 
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