Aryna Sabalenka: The star who stunned Ashleigh Barty for the Madrid Open title

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Belarus’s Aryna Sabalenka upset the odds to overcome Ashleigh Barty in the final of the Madrid Open yesterday.

Sabalenka defeated the world number one 6-0, 3-6, 6-4, capturing her first clay court title, her second of 2021, and the 10th of her career. As a result, she will move up from seventh in the world to fourth when the rankings are updated next week.

A tall and aggressive player, Sabalenka is really making a name for herself on the WTA Tour. To mark her latest achievement, GiveMeSport Women delves into the career of Sabalenka so far.

Rise to prominence in 2017

Now 23-years-old, Sabalenka was relatively unknown as a junior. She first made a name for herself in 2017, when she led Belarus to the final of the Fed Cup alongside Aliaksandra Sasnovich. Both players were outside the top 75 in the world at the time.

Although Belarus lost the final to the United States, Sabalenka established herself as one to watch.

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Having moved up to world number 73 at the end of 2017, Sabalenka was able to start playing exclusively on the WTA Tour. She continued to rise through the rankings, winning the Connecticut Open and the Wuhan Open, and was named WTA Newcomer of the Year as 2018 came to an end.

Sabalenka won three more WTA titles in both 2019 and 2020, but struggled at Grand Slams. Despite this, she entered 2021 on a nine-match winning streak, and is now going from strength to strength.

Doubles success

Sabalenka is not only a star in singles. She began partnering with Belgium’s Elise Mertens for doubles events in January 2019, and the pair quickly saw success.

In only their second tournament together, Sabalenka and Mertens won the 2019 Indian Wells Open, before achieving the Sunshine Double with victory at the Miami Open. Just months later, the duo both claimed their first career Grand Slam title in any discipline by triumphing at the US Open.

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In this year’s Australian Open, Sabalenka was defeated in the fourth round of the singles event by Serena Williams. She and Mertens were victorious in the doubles tournament, however. Sabalenka subsequently became the world number one doubles player.

Madrid Open victory

Sabalenka’s latest win at the Madrid Open has established the Belarusian as a real force on the WTA Tour.

It was the third time she came up against Barty this year, losing to the Australian in quarter-finals of the Miami Open and the final of the Stuttgart Open. She has now exacted revenge for the defeats, despite Barty’s status as Madrid Open favourite.

Next up for Sabalenka is the Italian Open, which gets underway in Rome tomorrow. According to the draw, Sabalenka and Barty could meet once again, this time in the quarter-finals.

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