The Insider Wrap is a recap of everything you need to know from the week (or two) that was. Last week, Aryna Sabalenka pulled off a statement run at the Mutua Madrid Open, where she won the title for the second time in three years.
Performance of the Week: Aryna Sabalenka
It has been a banner year for Aryna Sabalenka, who started 2023 with a 13-match winning streak that included her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. Sabalenka has held the No.1 position in the Race to the WTA Finals since Melbourne.
However, the World No.2 Sabalenka faced a major stumbling block as she moved into the thick of the clay-court season. In her first three meetings against top-ranked Iga Swiatek on clay, Sabalenka had yet to win a set, including just two weeks ago in the Stuttgart final.
But as she has done all season, Sabalenka checked off another milestone. She defeated Swiatek for the first time on clay, prevailing in the WTA 1000 Mutua Madrid Open final to win that title for the second time in three years.
"To have this win, especially on clay, that's something unbelievable," Sabalenka said after her 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win. "I'm really happy that I'm able to fight against her and I'm able to get these wins -- so it's not like so super boring for people to watch our matches."
Breakthrough of the Week: Mirra Andreeva
Mirra Andreeva gave herself a memorable 16th birthday present on Monday, April 29 -- her second straight win against a Top 20 player at a WTA 1000 event.
Andreeva beat No.19th-ranked Magda Linette to reach the Round of 16 in Madrid -- her first tour-level event. In her first two matches of the tournament, she had already upset 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez and World No.14 Beatriz Haddad Maia.
"Here almost every day I see Andy Murray, Daniil Medvedev and all the players from home," Andreeva said. "They say hi to me and I'm like, 'Wow, how come they know me?' So, yes, it's pretty great."
Andreeva's Madrid run ended with a respectable loss to eventual champion Sabalenka, and she is now inside the Top 150 of the singles rankings.
Maria Sakkari: The Greek player posted another WTA 1000 semifinal result in Madrid after also reaching the final four in Indian Wells this year. Sakkari fended off 31 of 40 break points in her first four matches of the week.
Veronika Kudermetova: The World No.12 notched multiple Top 10 wins at a single event for the first time in her career, beating No.8 Daria Kasatkina (saving match points) and No.3 Jessica Pegula en route to the Madrid semifinals.
Irina-Camelia Begu: The Romanian reached the Madrid quarterfinals for the third time (2015 and 2016). Begu has amassed 106 tour-level match-wins on clay during her career -- the fourth-highest total on this surface among the current Top 100.
Victoria Azarenka and Beatriz Haddad Maia: In their first time teaming up as doubles partners, Azarenka and Haddad Maia swept to the Madrid title, ending the fortnight with a dominant victory over No.1 seeds Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula.
Sloane Stephens and Sorana Cirstea: At last week's WTA 125 events, 2017 US Open champion Stephens took the title in Saint Malo, while Cirstea added to her strong season (Top 20 in the Race to the WTA Finals) by saving championship points on her way to the Reus title.
3: Following Swiatek and Sabalenka's finals in Stuttgart and Madrid, this is just the third time in the past 40 years that the World No.1 and No.2 have met multiple times on clay in a single season. In the past four decades, this also happened in 1984 (Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert at Amelia Island and Roland Garros) and 2013 (Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova in Madrid and Roland Garros).
13 - Aryna Sabalenka has won her 13th career WTA title, but only the second on clay courts - both have been in Madrid (2021 and 2023). ¡Enhorabuena!#MMOPEN | @MutuaMadridOpen @WTA @WTA_insider pic.twitter.com/q81OWgcsUz— OptaAce (@OptaAce) May 6, 2023
29: Aryna Sabalenka leaves Madrid as the match-win leader on tour so far this season, with 29. Iga Swiatek and Jessica Pegula are tied in second place, with 25 match-wins apiece.
8: Iga Swiatek is the third player in the Open Era (since 1968) to win all of her first eight clay-court tour-level semifinals. The other players to accomplish this feat are Peaches Bartkowicz (between 1968 and 1969) and Venus Williams (between 1998 and 2003).
Photo of the Week
World No.1 Iga Swiatek suffered a rare defeat on clay in the Madrid final -- only her second loss on the surface since 2021 -- but even at a tournament where things didn't go exactly as she hoped, her shot-making in full flight provided some incredible images, like the one below.
After a one-day breather on Monday, the WTA 1000 clay-court circuit will continue unabated when the Internazionali BNL d'Italia starts on Tuesday in Rome.
Swiatek will try to rebound from her Madrid defeat as she eyes a third straight title, while Sabalenka will attempt to keep her winning streak going as she seeks her first trip to the final.
Eighteen of the world's Top 20 players will take to the courts in the Italian capital over the next two weeks.