While much of the interest in this match has centred around the political ramifications, Aryna Sabalenka and Marta Kostyuk‘s match has the potential to be interesting even without the added hostilities. The pair have met once before with the second seed winning fairly comfortably last year in Dubai. The No.1 spot that seemed so far away is now well within Sabalenka’s grasp and she will take it if Swiatek doesn’t make the quarter finals or if she betters the Pole’s result past that stage.
Thanks to some strong hard court performances including in Austin where she took the title, Kostyuk finally broke into the top 40 to achieve a new career high ranking. Madrid and Rome were not too productive for her with a 1-2 record but she does have previous at the French Open in particular with her fourth round in 2021 being the best result she has achieved at any of the four slams.
Sabalenka finally managed to pick up a big clay win over Iga Swiatek, beating the Pole in three sets to win the Madrid title. Her follow-up loss to Sofia Kenin will have come as a disappointment although the rest provided by her early exit may benefit her in the long run. She is currently 29-5 on the year and looks a much improved player in general so her inevitable taking of the World No.1 spot will be deserved reward for the hard work put in over the past 12 months. “It was good lesson for all of us,” Sabalenka said after that loss. “Yeah, I was exhausted, but we did good recovery. I was able to recharge and start everything over again.”
Sabalenka will have plenty of distractions during the tournament and this match in particular so maintaining that concentration against a highly motivated opponent will be the key for her. “I’m trying to focus on myself, on my game, and make sure I bring my best tennis and then we will see after these couple of weeks what gonna happen.” she said.
Prediction – Aryna Sabalenka in straight sets