Sabalenka 'just survives' thanks to Philippoussis


Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka celebrates after beating Australia's Storm Sanders on Tuesday. — AFP
Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka celebrates after beating Australia's Storm Sanders on Tuesday. — AFP

Melbourne - The world No.2 revealed that the former Australian world No.8 gave her some tips


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Published: Tue 18 Jan 2022, 5:15 PM

Last updated: Tue 18 Jan 2022, 5:18 PM

World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka revealed Tuesday that Mark Philippoussis helped iron out her early season serving horrors as she recovered from a set down to make the Australian Open second round.

The second seed from Belarus came into the season-opening Grand Slam low on confidence after self-destructing at two warm-up tournaments where her serve left her distraught.

It got so bad against world No.93 Rebecca Peterson in Adelaide that Sabalenka was reduced to sending deliveries underarm, at one point breaking down in tears.

Across two defeats, she threw down 39 double faults.

She reduced the count to 12 against Storm Sanders on Rod Laver Arena to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, but with four in her first two service games it appeared she was in for another miserable night.

Sabalenka, 23, kept her cool though and finally found her range to stay in the match and the tournament, with former world No.8 Philippoussis to thank.

"After the first matches of the season I was really worried and I spoke with Mark Philippoussis," she said of the Australian, who reached the finals of the 1998 US Open and Wimbledon in 2003.

"He was in Adelaide (commentating) and after my second match he just wrote me, like, 'Well, girl, just stop thinking a lot on your serve'.

"He said: 'If you have some time today... I can help you.'

"And, yeah, I think at 9:00 pm or 8:00 pm we went on court and we served a lot and he gave me some tips about what should I focus on during the game when I'm struggling with my serve.

"I'm really thankful to him for this help because that's what helped me today on match to just survive there."

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