Aryna Sabalenka - Roland Garros 2022

Aryna Sabalenka eagerly awaits ‘tough challenge’ in Elena Rybakina rematch

Aryna Sabalenka has claimed that she is ‘happy’ to rise to the tough challenge of a rematch against her counterpart Elena Rybakina in the Madrid Open semi-finals.

Rybakina has won three of the previous four meetings between the pair, despite trailing 5-3 in their head-to-head.

But following an impressive win over teen sensation Mirra Andreeva, Sabalenka has tapped into the currents in Madrid, reigniting the form that drove her to success in the Spanish capital in 2021 and 2023.

And the pair are yet to meet on the red dirt, so it is perhaps the Belarusian who holds the upper hand going into Thursday’s match up.

What did Aryna Sabalenka say ahead of the semi-final?

Speaking after the 6-1 6-4 win over Andreeva, Sabalenka expressed excitement for her second meeting with Rybakina this term but also acknowledged the potent threat that the Kazakh can cause.

“It’s never easy if you get to the semifinals,” said the world No.2. “Elena is a great player, we’ve had so many great battles.

“It’s gonna be a tough challenge for me, but I’m happy to accept this challenge. I’ll do my best to get this win. Hopefully I’m gonna bring my best tennis.”

After defying the jaws of defeat – by saving two match points – against compatriot Yulia Putintseva, Rybakina has kept her imposing clay-court win streak intact.

The 24-year-old has now strung together 16 consecutive wins on the surface, and will use that to inspire her performance against Sabalenka in their first meeting on the dirt.

But Sabalenka has looked dangerous in these conditions over the years, and is on a collision course to meet world No.1 Iga Swiatek in the final.

If the Pole can get through Madison Keys, she would await Sabalenka in what would be a rematch of their thrilling three-set title showdown in 2023.

The Australian Open champion has been in stop-start form since defending her title in Melbourne in January, but appears to have finally settled, coming at the ideal time to guard her crown at the Caja Magica.

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Jerome Coombe, Tennishead Writer, discovered his love for tennis journalism whilst studying languages and playing competitive tennis. He has a vast knowledge of tennis and strives to shed a light on all corners of the sport.