MADRID -- World No.1 Iga Swiatek won her first Mutua Madrid Open title, saving three championship points to defeat No.2 and reigning champion Aryna Sabalenka 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(7). The match, the season's longest Hologic WTA Tour final, lasted 3 hours and 11 minutes.

The Madrid title marks the 20th career victory for 22-year-old Swiatek and her third of the season. She is the youngest player to reach 20 titles since Caroline Wozniacki in 2012.

A three-time champion at Roland Garros, Swiatek has now won both WTA 1000s on clay. She is also a two-time champion at the Internazionali BNL d'Italia. 

"For sure when I look back in maybe a few years, it will mean a lot," Swiatek said. "But for now, I'm just happy that I won this tournament anyway. Doesn't matter for me if I won it before or not. I try to win each tournament that I play.

Dating back to her loss to Sabalenka in Madrid last year, Swiatek has now won her past seven finals. She is tied with No.4 Elena Rybakina for the season lead in titles (3) and match-wins (30). Her win Saturday, which netted her a ninth WTA 1000 title, improved her record against Sabalenka to 7-3.

El Clásico: Swiatek squeaks past Sabalenka in thrilling Madrid final

The final marked the third clay-court showdown between Swiatek and Sabalenka. Over the past 40 years, only Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have faced each other more frequently on clay as the world's top two players.

In the 10th meeting between the two and first of the season, Swiatek and Sabalenka locked horns through a high-quality hourlong opening set. Despite the swirling breeze on Manolo Santana Stadium, Sabalenka found consistent depth and width to mute Swiatek's aggressive tendencies. 

After an exchange of breaks to open the match, the duo exchanged eight holds of serve before Sabalenka buckled. Serving at 5-5, she played her loosest game of the set to allow Swiatek to break. The World No.1 dug deep to hold from 0-30 down and take the set. 

Sabalenka came into the final battle-tested after coming through four tough three-set wins over the fortnight. She quickly put the disappointment of the first set behind her by breaking Swiatek immediately to lead 2-0. 

After a first set that was dominated by the server, the second set was defined by the returner. Swiatek responded to every break of her own serve with a break of Sabalenka's until she finally held serve to even the set at 3-3. But serving down 5-4, Swiatek struck an ill-timed double fault at 30-15 and Sabalenka took her chance. With two clean winners from each wing, the two-time Madrid champion broke to take the match to a third set. 

Sabalenka broke through first in the decider, breaking Swiatek with a forehand winner to lead 3-1. Swiatek answered immediately, breaking at 15 by increasing the intensity and pace of her baseline hitting. After Sabalenka wiped out an opening for Swiatek to break at 4-4, 0-30, Swiatek responded with her most decisive hold of the match to level at 5-5.

Serving to take the match to a deciding tiebreak, Swiatek saved two championship points to hold. Sabalenka drifted a forehand just wide on her first opportunity, while Swiatek wiped away the second with a clean one-two punch. 

"I think it was more about who's going to be less stressed and who's going to be able to play with more freedom," Swiatek said. "I think actually for most of the match, I felt like some decisions [from her] were pretty courageous. I was sometimes a little bit back.

"So at the end, I just wanted to not do that and to also be courageous."

As the match crossed the three-hour mark in the tiebreak, Swiatek and Sablenka changed sides with little separating them at 3-3. Sabalenka earned the first mini-break after following in a heavy forehand drive with a clean overhead to lead 4-3 but couldn't control her response to a deep Swiatek return on the next point.

Swiatek earned her first championship point at 6-5 after Sabalenka pushed a forehand long. Sabalenka wiped it out with her fourth ace of the match. 

Sabalenka earned a third match point at 7-6 but the backhand that had been so devastating throughout the match once again missed, this time long. Another error handed Swiatek her second championship point, which she converted when Sabalenka sent another backhand long, sending Swiatek to drop to the ground in celebration.

"At the end, I don't know what made a difference," Swiatek said. "I think we both kind of deserved to win today. I think it was only about these little points in the tiebreaker."