Aryna Sabalenka (Minsk, Belarus, 22 years old) is one of the players with the greatest potential in the tournament. In his short career he has already reaped nine titles, although none of them achieved it on clay and he hopes to finally do it in Madrid. He spoke with AS about his moment of form and commented on his rivalry with Garbiñe Muguruza, Who will not be able to face in this tournament after the loss of the Spanish.
-How does it feel to compete here in Madrid?
Of course, I am happy to be in Madrid and to be able to compete. I feel better compared to last weekend’s final (he laughs as he remembers losing to Ashleigh Barty in Stuttgart with a sore right leg). I am prepared and thinking about the first game.
-You come after that final in Stuttgart against Barty in which you fell, but did it give you more confidence to go that far?
I played a few good games and that’s good for a great tournament. I think that did give me a lot of confidence, because I look better prepared and with more filming now. So it’s good.
-Barty is very strong. Where is the key to beating it?
I think I did pretty good until I hurt my leg. You have to focus a lot on your movement and be prepared for his cut backhand and drive. She is number one in the world, she is playing really very well, with very heavy balls. If you hold out on long trades, you have a chance to beat it.
-You will fight against a player from the previous somewhat misleading, because she has a lot of experience (Vera Zvonareva, 36-year-old Russian, former world number two and winner of 12 titles), in your first game. How do you see this beginning and the rest of the draw?
The truth is that I don’t know who I would play against if I win the first game, I haven’t played the first game, so who knows what will happen (smiles), but I can say that Vera is a great player, an expert and I think her game works better in land, so it will come with confidence. It is not an easy first round, but I will do my best to prepare to the best of my ability.
-In recent years, the clay court title has resisted you. Do you see options to get it in Madrid?
I don’t know, I have prepared the gravel season quite well and will do everything I can to win games and win my first gravel title. And of course, I will be there and fight. I would love it to be here in Madrid, but I don’t want to look that far, I prefer to go step by step.
-Muguruza is one of the players with the best performances this season and has had two battles with her in which she lost. How do you see it?
He is playing very well, moving phenomenally, with very hard shots, serving well, fighting. She is one of the most difficult rivals and against her the matches are tough. I like to face Muguruza because I know it will be a great battle and a great challenge for me. I want to face her again because she is a great player.
-Apart from Madrid, what are your goals until the end of the season?
The one of all, to be here and to focus on going game by game. Play my tennis, do my best and see what happens.
-What is the secret of the good level of tennis in your country, Belarus?
I don’t know, I think we are great fighters, I think that is our key, to fight from beginning to end without exception.
-You like dogs and you always wanted one, did you get it?
Yes, I have a small dog, I like them, this is very cute and helps me a lot to calm down (laughs again).
-You also enjoy reading, are you reading something now?
No, because I don’t have time, but the last one was about thinking (he doesn’t quite remember the title).
Did you have a model in tennis as a child?
He had none, really. When I was little I liked watching Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova play, but they weren’t my idols either, I was focused on growing as a player.