Ash Barty's remarkable winning streak on red clay has come to a bitter end after the Aussie went down to Aryna Sabalenka in a rollercoaster Madrid Open final.
Australia's World No.1 went into the Madrid decider unbeaten in 16 straight matches on red clay but she went down to the Belarusian 6-0 3-6 6-4 in a wild final in the Spanish capital.
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Barty was handed a first set bagel after being blown off the court by Sabalenka in the opening stanza.
The Aussie simply had no answers to the big serving and power hitting of her opponent, who took advantage of the blustery conditions in devastating fashion.
Sabalenka needed just 25 minutes to claim the opening set without dropping a game - the first time Barty had been on the receiving end of such a hiding in four years.
Viewers were left stunned on social media.
Rather than being dismayed by her woeful start, Barty showed all her characteristic fight to find a way back into the contest.
Yet after she had recovered superbly to take the second set in the tricky conditions in the Spanish capital and Sabalenka appeared on the verge of blowing her top as her game unravelled, it felt as if the doughty Queenslander would prevail again.
Sabalenka powers home to claim title
Going into the match, she had lost only one of her dozen matches that had gone to three sets this year and she appeared to have Sabalenka on the ropes when she earned two break points at 2-1 in the decider.
The Belarusian smashed her racquet into the red clay and screamed at herself in frustration but found real resolve to win that game and cling on to take the match to 4-4, before returning to her first set mode when she was practically unplayable.
She reeled off the last 11 straight points of the match to seal victory in one hour 40 minutes and end Barty's run of 16 straight victories on the red clay which had stretched back to her French Open-winning year of 2019.
“To be honest after the final in Stuttgart, I was injured, I couldn’t move and wanted to withdraw,” Sabalenka said on court afterwards.
“But the recovery was good, in four days I feel better and now I’m the champion. It’s been an amazing week.”
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