The 2017 season has been quite a year for Aryna Sabalenka. The nineteen-year-old broke into the top-100 of the WTA singles rankings for the first team, peaking (so far) at the 76th spot in October. More importantly, she announced herself on the bigger stages of the women’s Tour emphatically through her game and her mindset, and the potential she possesses to build up on these factors.
The latter aspect has, then, been underscored in Sabalenka’s performances this week at the Mumbai Open, in the season-ending WTA 125k series tournament. The world no. 96 headlines the 32-women playing field in Mumbai and, in her opening two rounds, gave sufficient demonstration of being a player who despite the tumultuousness of the proceedings on the court was able to channelize her mind to work in tandem with her game to turnaround the results in her favour.
Sabalenka’s first-round match against Australian Priscilla Hon was wrapped up in straight sets – with the first set being closely fought – but she had to rally past against Jia-Jing Liu in a contest that lasted for two-and-a-half hours, going the distance of the full quota of three sets. Although Sabalenka was able to take the lead at regular intervals across the match after securing service breaks, her opponent’s persistence forced break backs, which prompted Sabalenka to scream frustratingly, and even throw her racquet in anger a couple of times.
Speaking to Tennis World USA post-match in a brief chat, Sabalenka then went on to admit that her frustrated ranting and screaming were traits she needed to avoid if she wanted to improve as a player. “I am a player and I have to be focused, and not give a lot of emotions,” she shared. “I have to show good game, I have to show good fight, [and] I have to show good emotions for the people who watch me, who support me.”
Recounting that it was her ability to exercise better focus and her ability to well-manage her temperament which had seen her post good results on the Tour this season – specifically in Tianjin, where she reached her first WTA final and in the Fed Cup – Sabalenka noted sheepishly, “It [this behaviour] was my mistake and I was thinking about it, and I will not do the same things. I am OK, but sometimes, I have some problems. I don’t know what happens.”
And, as she prepares to head into the off-season after the Mumbai Open, which is to be her last tournament, Sabalenka is keen on making these adjustments in her pre-season training alongside working on finessing her game.
When asked about these potential improvements, alongside reiterating about bettering the forehand-and-backhand staple, Sabalenka also mentioned about working on the aggression aspect of her game. “Actually, I have to work on [my] aggressive game and this is my game, and this is what I need on the court.”
For someone who tactical strength comes from taking the ball early and smacking it back over the net with sheer power, it would be interesting to see how with these intended areas of focus, how Sabalenka starts off the 2018 season.