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Preview: Iga Swiatek vs. Aryna Sabalenka - prediction, tournament so far

Sports Mole previews Saturday's Italian Open final between Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka, including predictions, head-to-head and their tournament so far.

For the second time in a matter of weeks, Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka - the top two players in the world - do battle in a clay-court final, this time at the Italian Open.

While the pair have enjoyed differing routes through to the final, there is the potential for the two global stars to serve up a thriller in Rome.

Match preview

Iga Swiatek pictured at the Indian Wells Masters on March 15, 2024© Reuters

Although Swiatek and Sabalenka were always favourites to prevail from their respective sides of the draw, it was far from a foregone conclusion, especially on the clay.

Swiatek's performances have been outstanding to say the least. Bernarda Pera was dispatched for the loss of just two games in the second round, before Yulina Putintseva put up a solid fight in a 6-3 6-4 defeat in the last 32.

Of the five players that have competed against Swiatek over the last week or so, Angelique Kerber has fared the best, albeit in a 7-5 6-3 reverse.

Madison Keys lost 6-1 6-3 to the Pole in Madrid and the exact same scoreline occurred this week, before world number three Coco Gauff went down 6-4 6-3 in the semis.

Aryna Sabalenka reacts at the Madrid Open on April 28, 2024© Reuters

Sabalenka has had to fight far harder to make it through to another final, being taken three sets by Katie Volynets as early as the second round.

Overcoming Dayana Yastremska proved far more routine, losing just the six games, before Sabalenka had to save match points on the way to defeating Ukrainian compatriot Elina Svitolina in a final-set tie-break.

Former Roland Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko was fancied to push Sabalenka in the quarter-finals, only for a 6-2 6-4 win to be posted by the world number two.

Danielle Rose Collins would go close to winning a set against Sabalenka in the last four, but the American ultimately fell to a 7-5 6-2 defeat.

As a result, these two players now have 24 clay-court victories between them during the recent stretch, only suffering three defeats.

Tournament so far

Iga Swiatek:

Second round: Bernarda Pera 6-0 6-2
Third round: Yulina Putintseva 6-3 6-4
Round of 16: Angelique Kerber 7-5 6-3
Quarter-final: Madison Keys 6-1 6-3
Semi-final: Coco Gauff 6-4 6-3

Aryna Sabalenka:

Second round: Katie Volynets 4-6 6-3 6-2
Third round: Dayana Yastremska 6-4 6-2
Round of 16: Elina Svitolina 4-6 6-1 7-6 (2)
Quarter-final: Jelena Ostapenko 6-2 6-4
Semi-final: Danielle Rose Collins 7-5 6-2

Head To Head

Madrid Open (2024) - Final: Swiatek wins 7-5 4-6 7-6 (7)
WTA Finals (2023) - Semi-final: Swiatek wins 6-3 6-2
Madrid Open (2023) - Final: Sabalenka wins 6-3 3-6 6-3
Stuttgart Open (2023) - Final: Swiatek wins 6-3 6-4
WTA Finals (2022) - Semi-final: Sabalenka wins 6-2 2-6 6-1
US Open (2022) - Semi-final: Swiatek wins 3-6 6-1 6-4
Italian Open (2022) - Semi-final: Swiatek wins 6-2 6-1
Stuttgart Open (2022) - Final: Swiatek wins 6-2 6-2
Qatar Open (2022) - Quarter-final: Swiatek wins 6-2 6-3
WTA Finals (2021) - Round Robin: Sabalenka wins 2-6 6-2 7-5

Having played 10 times across two-and-a-half years, this rivalry is becoming one of the most competitive in the sport, even though Swiatek holds a 7-3 advantage.

Many of those victories have been in convincing fashion, particularly when they met in the semi-finals of the WTA Finals last year, but Sabalenka has taken Swiatek to three sets in two of their last three meetings.

The most recent came just the two weeks ago, Swiatek coming through a final-set tie-break to win the Madrid Open. Twelve months earlier, Sabalenka had won in three sets.

Incredibly, in 25 sets of tennis between the pair, the tie-break in the latest edition in Madrid was their first.

SM words green background

We say: Swiatek to win in two sets sets

Given the manner in which Sabalenka has defied tiredness to dispatch of Ostapenko and Collins in straight sets, she is playing with enough confidence to get revenge on Swiatek for Madrid.

However, in 10 sets of tennis, Swiatek has only been notably pushed on one occasion, and lost just 14 games across her last five sets.

With that in mind, we can only back Swiatek to add another piece of silverware to her collection, which would represent her third success at this tournament.

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