Dubai Duty Free Tennis: Sabalenka hopes self-belief can help her win the title

The 24-year-old Belarusian, who moved to the No.2 spot in the world rankings following her success Down Under

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Leslie Wilson Jr

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World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka during her media interview in Dubai on Sunday. — Photo by Ehaab Qadeer
World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka during her media interview in Dubai on Sunday. — Photo by Ehaab Qadeer

Published: Sun 19 Feb 2023, 7:28 PM

Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka says she is hoping to super-optimize and build on her new-found success at the top of women’s tennis as she bids to win the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The 24-year-old Belarusian, who moved to the No.2 spot in the world rankings following her success Down Under, declares she is hungry for more milk and honey and believes that she has the motivation to achieve her ambitions.

“I want more. I have more motivation to work hard to feel that (victory) again,” she said on Sunday. “It’s changed something in my mind, but I still have to work hard to prove I’m in the right place.

“It’s nice to achieve your goals, but you still have to work, nothing has changed there.

“Now we’re in Dubai, I don’t know if it’s going to be the same. I am doing my best to keep improving and keep winning. It would be really cool to win in Dubai,” added Sabalenka, an imposing six-footer in her tennis socks.

To do that she admits that she will need to use the same mechanics and self-belief that helped her win a maiden Grand Slam title in her eighth year on the WTA Tour.

“I I would like to just focus on myself because I think the only thing why I won the Australian Open is because I was focusing on myself,” she revealed. “I didn't really think about all the expectations, all the things happening around, (I just told myself) this is a Grand Slam.

“I was just focusing on myself. I kept telling myself that I have to bring my level on court, I have a lot of chances to win the match.

“So, yeah, I'll just try to focus on myself.”

Sabalenka also acknowledged that this year’s edition of the Dubai Women’s Championships, which has attracted 17 of the Top 20 players in the world including four Grand Slam winners, was one of the strongest in its 23-year history.

“The draw is really strong here. I like this tournament. I like this city,” said Sabalenka who only last December played in the inaugural World Tennis League at the Coca-Cola Arena.

“Of course, I want to win this tournament. I know that there is a lot of matches ahead, a lot of tough matches ahead, so I have to work hard.

“If I win this tournament, it will be really great.”

To do so the Belarusian will follow the simple philosophy of taking it one match at a time and hope to keep improving.

“It's been only two tournaments. It's many weeks to go,” she said. “It's good that I didn't lose a match in Australia, but now we're in Dubai. I don't know if it's going to be the same.

“I'm doing my best to keep improving, keep winning. I'm not looking at the draw that far. I'm just taking it step by step,” Sabalenka added.

“Sometimes you look far in the draw, then you lose the first match because you're already thinking about your semifinal match or whatever. I'm just trying to take it step by step.”

The Belarusian also believes that the depth and quality in the women’s game has improved significantly

“Each opponent is really tough. I think tennis is improved a lot,” she said. “If No. 1 is playing against No. 30, it doesn't say anything. Anyone can beat anyone.”

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