Two of the hottest players this clay season will meet in the biggest women’s clay court final thus far, the Madrid Masters final on Saturday.
The World No. 1 Barty won her 16th straight match on red clay dismissing Spanish hope Paula Badosa 6-4, 6-3 in a comprehensive victory.
Badosa stunned the Australian last month in Chaleston, but playing today in her biggest career semifinal, the 23-year-old double fault the first set away and an early break in the second. And that was more than enough for Barty.
“I think it was a really good response early in the second set,” said Barty. “I just wanted to keep that pressure on and be relentless with that, knowing that I would eventually create an opportunity, whether that was in the first set, in the second set or third if it went that deep.
“I was always going to create an opportunity for myself. It’s about giving yourself time, being patient to allow yourself to work into the match.
“I think it was important for me to get that early break back in the second and kind of just keep my nose in front, almost force her to come up with something that was going to be at a really, really high level to be able to get back into the match.”
Barty’s streak has propelled her into rightful favorite status for the French which begins at the end of the month.
“I think a lot of the confidence I’ve gained this year was from the work that I’d done with my team prior to even playing my first match,” Barty added. “Without a doubt, you grow with each match that you play, every opportunity you get to try something new or try and rectify a few mistakes that you made in previous matches. That’s all learning.
“I think the confidence comes from the practice and the preparation. Then the match is the opportunity to go out there and hone your craft. I think with more matches that you play, it’s always a different opponent, different conditions. I think there are so many different variables in tennis, that’s the challenge, just trying to bring your best regardless of those conditions, regardless of who you’re playing, what surface, whether it’s windy, cold, rainy, whatever it is, trying to adapt to that as best you can. I feel like we’ve had a really good balance of that this year.”
In the final on Saturday, Barty will meet Aryna Sabalenka who stormed into the final by breezing past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 6-2, 6-3.
In six matches this week, Sabalenka has lost just 18 games and hasn’t lost more than three games in any set.
“I think my game has improved a lot on the clay court,” Sabalenka said Thursday night. “For sure it’s give me some confidence, yeah. But there’s still so many things to work on. Yeah, I’m just really happy with my level here in Madrid.”
Barty leads the Belarussian 4-3 and 2-0 this year including the Stuttgart final last month she won 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 indoors on the clay.
“Physically I have to be ready for this match,” Sabalenka said. “She’s No. 1. She’s great. I play her in Stuttgart. It’s not easy game. I will do everything I can to prepare myself as good as I can. Yeah, just looking forward for this battle.”
Sabalenka will seek her 10th career title and first on clay. Barty will bid for a 12th title having won her last five finals.
“She’s played an exceptional week thus far,” Barty said of Sabalenka. “She’s been extremely dominant from the scorelines I have seen. I haven’t seen her matches, but from the scorelines I can kind of picture what’s been going on. I’ve been on the back end of it times before.
“The challenge is to get yourself into a position where she’s not controlling the court. It’s about neutralizing as best you can for me, changing the pace, being aggressive when I have to be, running when I have to as well. It’s a massive challenge.”
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