Madrid: Sabalenka sends Andreeva an apt awakening as 16-year-old’s dream ends

Aryna Sabalenka shakes hands with Mirra Andreeva after winning their Women's fourth round match on Day Eight of the Mutua Madrid Open at La Caja...

Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka navigated past an uncomfortable start to ensure Mirra Andreeva’s record-breaking run at the Madrid Masters was ended in their last-16 clash earlier today, though the Russian – who turned 16 at the weekend – should be encouraged after an impressive week where she proved her tennis level is already much higher than most of her agemates.

Andreeva can take strength from memorable week

Mirra Andreeva of Russia in action against Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus during the Mutua Madrid Open 2023 celebrated at Caja Magica on May 01, 2023 in...
Andreeva celebrates after winning a point in her straight-sets defeat by Sabalenka

Sabalenka [2] bt. Andreeva [WC] 6-3, 6-1

  • Sabalenka will play Egypt’s Mayar Sherif in tomorrow’s quarter-finals, after 26-year-old won in three sets (6-4, 0-6, 6-4) against Aryna’s former doubles partner Elise Mertens [27] elsewhere on Monday
  • Teenage wildcard Andreeva stunned many as a straight-sets winner against US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez, world no. 15 Beatriz Haddad Maia and Australian Open semi-finalist Magda Linette in four days
  • “It was a great match, really happy with the result. I was trying to adjust to her game early, then started feeling and playing better – super happy to win especially against a young player,” she says in flash interview

Mirra Andreeva, who celebrated her 16th birthday with a straight-sets win (6-3, 6-3) over Australian Open semi-finalist Magda Linette on Saturday, came into today’s contest as a new record-breaker free to play without fear.

The youngest ever player to reach the last-16 at a WTA 1000 event, she was the junior singles finalist in Australia three months ago and had a 16-match unbeaten streak in tow against the world no. 2. Any pressure present was on a player eight years older.

Sabalenka, who won her first Major down under the day after Andreeva’s defeat by Alina Korneeva, spoke pre-match about a desire for more consistency and further deep tournament runs as she closes in on Iga Swiatek’s number one world ranking.

Andreeva won the toss and served first but five points was all the Belarusian needed to break it and little over an hour later, secure her 70th victory at WTA 1000 level.

There was a sense of inevitability about the result and although the teenage Russian acquitted herself well early, she was increasingly demoralised by Sabalenka’s aggressive groundstrokes as they bounced off the Madrid clay across all angles.

Match statistics, per Prime Video
Andreeva won 51% of her first serve points (19/37)
Served four double-faults, the same amount as her first three matches combined
14 winners to Sabalenka’s 28, two less unforced errors (14-16)

At the time of writing, Andreeva sits fifth among players under 19 in the world rankings after this week’s progress: Czech trio Linda Noskova (53), Linda Fruhvirtova (54) and younger sister Brenda (136), as well as Mirra’s older sister Erika (117).

When asked for an article earlier this week, Andreeva drew comparisons between her game and that of two-time Major finalist Ons Jabeur, citing an ability to change the rhythm a lot, playing with topspin and drop shots as reasons for the pick.

She said her backhand is her biggest weapon and while armchair critics will be quick to counter that this performance proves she doesn’t yet have the power to trouble the big guns – who physically would, having just turned 16?

Aware that she’s limited in the amount of professional tournaments she can play due to the WTA’s age eligibility rule, she said she’d continue to play big junior tournaments and undoubtedly go one better than her final heartbreak in Melbourne.

Some fans on social media have already suggested her performances deserve a Roland Garros wildcard later this month, having proven capable beyond her years.

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment, but an experience like this would’ve humbled her against an opponent who similarly shot up the rankings as a teenager.

Everyone deals with expectation and pressure differently, though Andreeva is fortunate to have a wealth of experience around her, a good team with IMG and multiple players across both tours to glean inspiration from as her journey continues.

What’s next? 

Iga Swiatek of Poland in action against Ekaterina Alexandrova of Russia in the fourth round on Day Eight of the Mutua Madrid Open at La Caja Magica...
Swiatek had to work for it, but emerged in three sets vs. Ekaterina Alexandrova

Madrid Open quarterfinals
Iga Swiatek [1] vs. Petra Martic [27]
Jessica Pegula [3] vs. Veronika Kudermetova [12]
Maria Sakkari [9] vs. Irina-Camelia Begu [31]
Mayar Sherif vs. Aryna Sabalenka [2]

Picture source: Getty Images