Aryna Sabalenka says she can exit the French Open with her head held high after narrowingly missing out on a place in the final.
The world No.2 boasted a 5-2 lead over Czech underdog Karolina Muchova in the final set and had a match point opportunity. However, Sabalenka was unable to close the match out as her rival battled back to claim a shock 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 7-5, victory. It is only the third time this season she has been beaten by a player outside of the world’s top 40 on the Tour after Sorana Cirstea in Miami and Sofia Kenin in Rome.
“It was a tough match. She (Muchova) played unbelievable tennis. Still, I had a lot of opportunities, and I didn’t use them.” Sabalenka told reporters in Paris.
“Of course, I’m very disappointed with this tough loss, but that’s okay.”
Whilst the result is a bitter pill for the 25-year-old to swallow, she can take some comfort in her run at Roland Garros. Until this year she had never progressed beyond the third round of the Grand Slam. Before facing Muchova, she scored wins over former world No.3 Elina Svitolina and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens.
“I definitely have to learn something from this match and come back stronger,” she said.
“I don’t look at this tournament as a negative tournament. I think I have made a great improvement on the clay court, and it’s my best result here (at the French Open).’
“I’m trying to stay positive no matter what happened on the court. I’ll come back stronger.”
Sabalenka currently leads the WTA Tour for most wins this season at 34. In January she won her first major title at the Australian Open where she defeated Elena Rybakina in the final. Overall, she has already contested the final of five WTA events so far in 2023, winning three of them.
However, at the French Open, the Belarussian also had to contend with the limelight off the court. Following her second round match, she was involved in a heated discussion with one journalist who quizzed her about her support for Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko. Subsequently, she conducted her next two press conferences behind closed doors due to mental health reasons before returning to her usual media duties.
“I felt bad emotionally after one press conference. I couldn’t sleep,” Sabalenka explained.
“But the only thing I can do well in this life is play tennis, so I try to focus on things I could control and I could do.’
“There wasn’t any moment when I was, like, I don’t want to play tennis. It’s been a great couple of weeks with some challenges, emotional challenges, but I think I got through it. I think I’ll be stronger.”
Sabalenka’s focus now switches to the grass season with Wimbledon starting in less than a month. She reached the semi-final at SW19 back in 2021 but was unable to play last year as the tournament banned Belarussian players due to the war in Ukraine.
Asian Games Champion Qinwen Zheng Reveals Shock Departure Of Coach Fissette
China’s Qinwen Zheng says she feels ‘hurt’ by the decision of her former coach to end their collaboration in order to work with another player.
The US Open quarter-finalist had been working with Belgium’s Wim Fissette in recent weeks following the departure of Pere Riba who is now the coach of Coco Gauff. Fissette has a wealth of experience in women’s tennis after working with the likes of Kim Clijsters and Naomi Osaka. However, Zheng says she is now looking for a new mentor.
“I understand his decision, but my family and I feel hurt. Right now I don’t want to talk about this person (Fissette),’ journalist Bendou Zhang quoted her as saying.
Fissette is yet to comment on his departure. He had previously coached former world No.1 Osaka between 2019-2022 and during this period she won two of her four Grand Slam titles. The American-based Japanese player is on maternity leave from the sport and gave birth to her first child in July.
20-year-old Zheng is currently ranked 23rd in the world and won her maiden WTA title in Palermo earlier this year. She is the youngest player from her country to have reached the quarter-finals of a Grand Slam in the Open Era following her run at Flushing Medows. This year she has beaten top 10 players Ons Jabeur and Daria Kasatkina.
Zheng’s latest career milestone is winning gold at the Asian Games on Friday. in the final, she defeated Zhu Lin 6-2, 6-4, in the blistering Hangzhou heat.
“The feeling was incredible,” Zheng said. “I’m really happy about that. That was not an easy match today and also yesterday (in semifinal against Alex Eala). All of them are good fighters.”
It is not clear who Zheng will be working with during the Asian swing.
Daria Kasatkina Criticises Decision To Not Use Roof At Sweltering Pan Pacific Open
Daria Kasatkina has taken a swipe at organizers at the Toray Pan Pacific Open for not using the roof to cover their premier court on Thursday due to the heat.
The Russian played her second round match against Despina Papamichail in temperatures around 30 degrees with the humidity making it feel even warmer. Kasatkina battled to a 6-4, 6-4, win after spending more than two hours on the court. She dropped serve four times in the match but managed to break Papamichail seven times en route to victory.
Speaking on the court following his latest tour win, the world No.13 admitted that she struggled in the conditions and implied that she believed the roof should have been closed to shield the players from the sun. Tokyo, which is where the tournament is staged, has experienced a record-breaking number of ‘extremely hot’ days this year with their autumn season being warmer than usual. Something that some warn could be a more regular occurrence due to climate change.
“We cannot do much about it. We are using the ice towels and some supplements to keep you hydrated. By at the end, you cannot fight with something you cannot control,” Kasatkina commented on the conditions during her on-court interview.
“I think in these kinds of conditions, if you have a roof, better maybe to close it. If you have these opportunities, better to use it than to make players almost die on the field.” She added.
Kasatkina is through to her seventh Tour quarter-final of the season. Awaiting her in the next round will be second seed Jessica Pegula who beat Spain’s Cristina Bucșa 6-1, 6-2, in her second round match on Wednesday. It will be only the second Tour meeting between the two players and their first on a hard court.
Elsewhere in Tokyo, another player to reach the last eight in France’s Caroline Garcia who beat Anhelina Kahlinina 6-4, 6-3. Meanwhile, Anastasia Pavlychenkova defeated Czech Republic’s Linda Noskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.
Barbora Krejcikova Does The Double In San Jose
After what has been a challenging past few weeks on the Tour, Barbora Krejcikova has returned to the winner’s circle by claiming both the singles and doubles titles at the San Diego Open.
The world No.13 battled to a marathon 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, win over Sofia Kenin in what was a clash of the former Grand Slam champions. Krejcikova was pushed to her limits throughout the two-and-a-half-hour clash with there being no break in the decider until the final game. It is the second singles title the Czech has won on the WTA Tour this season after Dubai and her seventh overall.
“Normally I wouldn’t be here,” said Krejcikova, who received a wild card to play in the tournament “I really want to thank them (the tournament organisers). It was very special. I really enjoyed my stay here.”
Krejcikova’s run to the trophy has also seen her score wins over Beatriz Haddad Maia and Danielle Collins earlier in the week. She is the first player from her country to win the tournament.
Following on from that triumph, the 27-year-old then clinched the doubles title alongside compatriot Katerina Siniakova. The duo beat Collins and Coco Vandeweghe 6-1, 6-4.
Krejcikova came into San Jose on a four-match losing streak which started at Wimbledon where she was forced to withdraw from her secound round clash due to a left leg injury.
“I came here with not really good statistics after my injury, I didn’t actually win any matches,” she said. “So I just came here and I pretty much was hoping and believing that I could get the first win and go from there. It’s pretty special to be sitting here having won [the title].”
It is only the second time in Krejcikova’s career that she has won both the singles and doubles titles at the same event. The first time she did so was at the 2021 French Open where her partner in the doubles was also Siniakova.
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