WTA

Swiatek swats away Sabalenka challenge to triumph again in Stuttgart

By Sports Desk April 23, 2023

Iga Swiatek scooped her 13th career title with a statement victory against Aryna Sabalenka in Sunday's Stuttgart Open final.

The world number one has seen her dominance take a dip this season, with Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina emerging as serious candidates to displace her at the top of the women's game.

However, Swiatek is the queen on clay and illustrated her prowess with a 6-3 6-4 win at the tournament that rewards its champion not only with a cheque for $120,150 and trophy, but also a Porsche.

This success made Swiatek the first player to defend the Stuttgart title since Angelique Kerber's back-to-back 2015 and 2016 triumphs, and it came in her first tournament back after a rib injury.

The 21-year-old Polish player entered the title match having said she and Ons Jabeur are the tour's best players on clay, and that put her there to be shot at by Australian Open winner Sabalenka, who has climbed to second place in the rankings.

This was the first time a tour-level final has featured the top two women in the world rankings since the 2018 Australian Open final, when Simona Halep beat Caroline Wozniacki.

It was also a repeat of last year's Stuttgart final that Swiatek won comprehensively, dropping only four games, amid a 37-match winning run that would bring her a second French Open title.

The traffic was not quite so one-way this time, but Swiatek was terrific and did not drop serve once.

For Sabalenka, the outcome meant a third consecutive defeat in Stuttgart title matches, having also lost in the 2021 showpiece to Ash Barty.

After Swiatek surged through the opener, she forced a break point at the start of the second set and a Sabalenka double fault handed over the advantage.

Unforced errors were costing the Belarusian, who could not capitalise on a break point in the fourth game of the second set, going on to fling a desperate forehand wide to hand over a 3-1 lead.

Swiatek took evasive action to avoid a fierce Sabalenka smash in the next game, after initially charging towards the net, but she remained firmly in charge.

The title was secured with a ruthless love game on serve, an outmanoeuvred Sabalenka left to watch her opponent drill away a backhand into an empty court.

Reflecting on her injury lay-off, Swiatek said: "It's been such an intense time in the last couple of weeks and tough decisions sometimes, but I'm so happy we're making the right decisions."

Sabalenka, who during the week made no secret of her eagerness to win the Porsche, said: "I'll keep coming back until I get the car."

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