Iga Swiatek suffered a rare loss on clay when she fell to No.2 Aryna Sabalenka in the Mutua Madrid Open final on Saturday, but the Polish player is keeping her fortnight in perspective following the year's first WTA 1000 clay-court event.
"We just played on a good level, but [Sabalenka] was better today," Swiatek said in her post-match press conference. "Maybe sometimes I could be more proactive, but honestly, I think we both played good. I don't have any big regrets."
Swiatek still has a stellar 27-2 win-loss record on clay since the start of 2022, with her only other loss on that surface in that timeframe coming to Caroline Garcia in the 2022 Warsaw quarterfinals.
"Sometimes it's tougher, sometimes it's easier," Swiatek said. "That's why we have variety in tennis, and that's why sometimes players are playing better on some surfaces and some on different [surfaces]. But it doesn't really matter because she won, and I just respect that and I don't want to take it from Aryna."
Despite going home without the title, Swiatek still posted her career-best result in her second appearance in Madrid. She has only lost to Sabalenka and former World No.1 Ashleigh Barty at the event.
"I think [the final] was really tight, and it was a matter of kind of a few centimeters, you know, and sometimes it's in, sometimes it's out," Swiatek said. "But I did my best to keep the intensity and still keep the control here.
"Maybe next year I'm gonna know better if I can do even more or not, but for sure I did 100 percent of what I could, so no regrets."
No.1 Swiatek and No.2 Sabalenka contested their second straight final after Swiatek won their showdown in Stuttgart two weeks ago, cementing their rivalry as the one to watch for the remainder of the clay-court season.
Madrid featured the first WTA 1000 final between the top two players in the rankings since No.1 Serena Williams beat No.2 Li Na to win the 2014 Miami Open.
This is only the third time in the past four decades in which the top-two ranked players have met multiple times on clay in a single season. Even more final meetings between the two are possible, with Rome starting next week and Roland Garros looming.
"Me and Aryna, I feel like we're just hard workers," Swiatek said. "I know that she's super professional as well in terms of fitness and other stuff, and we're kind of progressing no matter if we're on top or not, so I think that's why we are kind of solid."
To many, many more matches between these two ⚡️— wta (@WTA) May 6, 2023
The story continues...📖 pic.twitter.com/K8hmof56RT
Swiatek will still maintain her position at World No.1 in Monday's updated rankings, although Sabalenka is narrowing the gap. Regardless, Swiatek continues to identify accomplishments beyond the rankings to spur herself on.
"People are saying it's tough to get to the top, but staying at the top is even tougher," Swiatek said. "I don't know, I haven't lived enough to know if that's true or not.
"It's just a matter of not thinking about that you're gonna stay here, but it's more like reaching to other stuff that can motivate you and that you can do better, no matter what position you're in.
"That was the change for me in terms of how I felt at the beginning of the season with the pressure of being World No.1, and how I feel right now."