July 16, 2024
Aryna Sabalenka

Aryna Sabalenka (right) has made at least the semi-finals at the past six Grand Slams

Aryna Sabalenka says it will be “tough” to face “best friend” Paula Badosa when they go head-to-head for a place in the French Open fourth round on Saturday.

Australian Open champion Sabalenka, 26, has been in imperious form so far at Roland Garros, losing just seven games across two commanding straight-set wins.

The pair play second on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“She’s my favourite,” world number two Sabalenka said of Badosa.

“I love her so much. I love to see her play, and she’s really a great fighter, so it’s always great matches.

“It’s always tough to play your best friend on tour, but we know how to manage that, we know how to separate court and life.

“It’s always a great battle. I always enjoy playing against her.”

Spaniard Badosa, a former quarter-finalist, has twice come back from a set down to reach the third round in Paris.

Having ended British number one Katie Boulter’s hopes, Badosa defeated Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva on Thursday and said she was looking forward to the challenge against Sabalenka, who has won their past four meetings.

“She has a big personality, she’s a good girl, always bringing good energy, even on court,” said 26-year-old Badosa, who is currently ranked 139th.

“I think it’s going to be fun. Of course sharing the court with her after all these results she’s doing and all this is a pleasure for me.”

Elsewhere in the women’s singles draw, fourth seed Elena Rybakina and Belgium’s Elise Mertens meet in the opening match on Philippe Chatrier.

Kazakhstan’s Rybakina, who lifted the Wimbledon title in 2022, has only gone beyond the third round of the French Open once previously.

On Court Suzanne Lenglen, American 14th seed Madison Keys takes on compatriot Emma Navarro for a place in round four.

Chinese seventh seed Zheng Qinwen faces Russian Elina Avanesyan in the opener on Court Simonne Mathieu.

Zheng was a beaten finalist at the Australian Open in January but is yet to go beyond the fourth round at Roland Garros.

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