Sabalenka Plugs into Pleasure Principle

“I would say that mentally I’m more stronger than I was last year,” world No. 2 said after French Open first-round win.

By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Sightlines on Roland Garros grounds haven’t changed.

Aryna Sabalenka says she’s bringing a different perspective to this French Open.

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World No. 2 Sabalenka swept Erika Andreeva 6-1, 6-2 to charge into the Roland Garros second round.

Launching her quest to become the first woman since Serena Williams in 2015 to capture the Australian Open and French Open in succession, Sabalenka commanded the center of the court converting five of six break points in a 68-minute thrashing.

Afterward, Sabalenka said she sees Paris as the City of Lighten Up.

Asserting she plays her best when she’s relaxed, the emotive Sabalenka aims to plug into the power of positivity a year after her run to the Roland Garros semifinals.

“I think it’s all comes with experience,” Sabalenka said. “First times when I was coming here, I was so tight, I was so intense because it’s a Grand Slam, and with the years you realize this is just another tournament and you have to have fun.

“You have to be positive, because it’s enough tension on court. If you’re gonna bring this tension off court, it’s just too much.

“So for me, it’s the better way to kind of like loosen up and to keep it, I don’t know, mentally good, it’s just to have fun, of course.”

Winning is pure joy and Sabalenka has had plenty of happy days—as well as personal tragedy, suffering the death of her ex-boyfriend in Miami in March—in an eventful year.

Still, Sabalenka brings her best in the Slams.

The two-time Australian Open champion has contested semifinals or better in her last six Grand Slam appearances.

Today, Sabalenka improved her clay-court record to 12-3 this season with her only losses coming against world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the finals at Rome and Madrid and against Wimbledon winner Marketa Vondrousova in the Stuttgart quarterfinal.

After falling to Swiatek in Rome, Sabalenka said on court: “I hope we’re gonna make it to the finals at Roland Garros and I’m gonna get you there.

“Just kidding—just trying to do better than today.”

Asked about a possible third straight clay-court final against three-time Roland Garros champion Swiatek, Sabalenka said she’s not looking that far ahead, but will be ready for a rematch.

“I have been just joking kind of over there, but if we’re going to get to the point that we have to play each other here, then I was just kidding,” Sabalenka said. “But anyways, it’s a tough battle against her. Like going to the match, you never know how it’s gonna end, you know.

“It’s kind of like 50/50. It’s a tough challenge for me, but as I always say, tough challenges, I like it. I’m ready to accept that and I’m ready to do my best to get that win. But, I mean, it’s far away from this day, you know. I am just trying to focus on each game. If we get to the point, I’ll try my best.”

Photo credit: Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty

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