Aryna Sabalenka Hopes To Finally Make Week 2 At French Open

by Staff | May 26th, 2023, 11:32 pm
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It’s been a banner year already for Aryna Sabalenka. The big-hitting Belarussian claimed the biggest title of her career winning the first Grand Slam of the season at the Australian Open.

Earlier this month, she came up big in stunning Iga Swiatek to take the Madrid Masters.

While she was bounced in her Rome opener by Sofia Kenin, she comes into the French Open as a Grand Slam champion and full of confidence. But she’s never gone past the third round in Paris.

“[The] last years wasn’t really good for me here at Roland Garros,” Sabalenka said Friday. “It’s an extra motivation for me to do better.

“I think physically I’m stronger, so I’m able to move better on clay and I’m not rushing things and I’m calm on court. So a lot of things I improved since, I would say since last year, so that’s why it makes me better player on clay.

“I’m gonna do everything I can to improve it.”

And as an aside, if Iga Swiatek fails to make the quarterfinals, Sabalenka — because she’s defending so few points — will reach No. 1 for a first time.

If Swiatek does make the quarters, Sabalenka can also get No. 1 by matching round-for-round.

“I’m not focusing on that. Because every time I’m focusing on something like that, like points, ranking, results, and I’m not playing my best,” she said.

Sabalenka has a tricky opener on Sunday against Ukraine star Marta Kostyuk. The 20-year-old Kostyuk, who won her first career title in Austin in February, has stuck to her vow of not shaking hands with opponents from Russia or Belarus.

Sabalenka is going to worry about it.

“I kind of can understand them,” Sabalenka said. “Like I imagine they’re going to shake hands with Russians and Belarusians, and then they’re gonna get so many messages from their home countries. So I kind of understand why they are not doing it. At the same time, I feel like sports shouldn’t be in politics. Like we’re just athletes. If they feel good with no shaking hands, I’m happy with that.

“If she hate me, okay. I can’t do anything about that,” she said. “There is going to be people who loves me. There is going to be people who hates me. If she hates me, I don’t feel anything like that to her.”

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