ROME — If all goes well for World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka at the French Open, she’ll be staring down three-time champion Iga Swiatek at the coin toss in the final. Sabalenka has relished her on-court battles with Swiatek despite setbacks in the past two high-profile matches this month.

After saving match points against Sabalenka to win her first Madrid title, the 22-year-old Swiatek beat her again Saturday to win her third Internazionali BNL d’Italia title in Rome.

“Congrats on an incredible couple of weeks in Rome,” Sabalenka said during the trophy ceremony. “Great stuff, great tennis.

“I hope we’re going to make it to the final of Roland Garros and I’ll get you there,” Sabalenka said laughing.

As Swiatek quipped later in her trophy speech, “We’ll see about that Roland Garros final.”

Hot shot: Swiatek outfoxes Sabalenka in the Rome final

And that’s precisely where things stand as the two best players in the world get ready to rest and prepare for the second Grand Slam of the season.

In their 11th career meeting, Sabalenka was unable to summon her best level against Swiatek, as Swiatek pocketed a 6-2, 6-3 win to extend her lead to 8-3 in the head-to-head and 4-1 in tournament finals.

“I love Roland Garros,” Sabalenka said. “I did well last year there. I’m super excited going there.

“Even though I lost these two finals, I never focus on the past. No matter how many times I lose to the player, I know anyway if I’ll be there, if I’ll be fighting, I’ll be focusing on myself, I know that I can get that win.

“I’m going there with the confidence that I can do well there.”

Sabalenka does not need to look far to tap into that confidence. Last year, she had match point on Karolina Muchova in the French Open semifinals. This year, she’s put herself neck and neck with Swiatek for Player of the Swing honors.

“I’m not, like, an underdog there,” Sabalenka said. “Being No.2 seeded, it’s tough to call yourself underdog.

“I’m definitely not the favorite probably there. But at the same time, I do feel that I can actually go for it. It’s 50-50. But I prefer to be underdog.

“I really hope I’m going to make it to the final and I really hope I’ll be able to get that win, if it’s Iga or not. It’s an amazing tournament. It’s a Grand Slam. I’ll just go there and fight for every point and see what happens after the tournament.”


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