June 20, 2024
Aryna Sabalenka

STUTTGART, Germany — Aryna Sabalenka is hoping this is finally her year at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. The World No.2 has finished runner-up in her last three appearances, falling short to former No.1 Ashleigh Barty in 2021 and reigning No.1 Iga Swiatek in 2022 and 2023.

Fourth time’s the charm? Sabalenka has every reason to believe this is the year she gets her hands on that elusive Porsche.

The 25-year-old returns to the Porsche Arena as a two-time Grand Slam champion after successfully defending her title without the loss of a set at the Australian Open. And while clay has been, historically, her weakest surface, Sabalenka put together the best clay season of her career last spring. She won the second clay title of her career in Madrid by defeating Swiatek in a three-set final and was a point away from booking a spot in her first Roland Garros final.

“It’s important for every player to know they’re able to play on each surface and don’t have this weird feeling going into the specific surface thinking like, Oh, my God, that’s not my place, I’m not going to do well here,” Sabalenka said at Media Day in Stuttgart. “It was really important for me to have this success, to have this belief.”
That loss to Karolina Muchova in Paris still smarts, Sabalenka conceded. Looking to make her second straight major final, Sabalenka led 5-2 in the third and held a match point before unraveling to lose 7-6(5), 6-7(5), 7-5.

“Still probably hurting,” Sabalenka said. “But it’s okay. I always say, We’re not losing, we are learning.

“I think that experience was really important for me to learn a lot of stuff. Hopefully this year I can do little bit better.”

What exactly did Sabalenka learn? With her trademark brand of humor and defiance, she explained.

“Well, I think if I make it to the same stage of the tournament and I’m going to stay there on 5-2, 30-Love, I’m going to stay there,” Sabalenka said. “No [expletive] chance I’m going to do the same. No way I can say it differently.”

After winning 11 of her first 12 matches of the season, Sabalenka is hoping to get back on track on the clay. She has won three matches since Melbourne, with her best result coming at Indian Wells in the Round of 16. It’s not a trend that concerns her.

“I really enjoy playing on clay,” Sabalenka said. “Preparation starts straight after Miami Open. After I finish the tournament, I have a couple days off and I start preparing for the clay as soon as possible.

“I think Stuttgart is a good place to start the clay season. You’re slowly getting into this, kind of like, ‘clay mood’, I would say, sliding, playing long rallies. I like to play lots of tournaments before the Grand Slam, so I think it’s a good one to start with.”

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