Aryna Sabalenka shares how Novak Djokovic could be secret recipe for future success

Sabalenka asked if speaking with Djokovic played a role in her two Australian Open wins.

by Dzevad Mesic
Aryna Sabalenka shares how Novak Djokovic could be secret recipe for future success
© Getty Images Sport - Kelly Defina

Aryna Sabalenka admits she is "still shocked" over managing to defend her Australian Open title and jokes that speaking with Novak Djokovic may be the key to her success.

After accomplishing her dream of becoming a Grand Slam champion at the 2023 Australian Open, 25-year-old Sabalenka returned to Melbourne Park this year as the defending champion and left Australia with her second Grand Slam title. Not only that Sabalenka managed to win back-to-back Australian Open titles, but she also did it without losing a single set during two weeks at Melbourne Park. 

"I'm still shocked I was able to win back-to-back Australian Open. It's a dream. Yeah, I couldn't even dream about that, so..." Sabalenka admitted during her pre-tournament press conference in Dubai.

In 2022 December, Sabalenka and Djokovic represented the same team at the World Tennis League in Abu Dhabi. A month later, Sabalenka ended up winning her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. When asked if she spoke with Djokovic about her back-to-back Australian Open wins and potentially emulating the Serb's 10 Australian Open wins, Sabalenka cracked a joke before revealing they didn't speak about that topic.

"I guess I need to speak more often to Novak maybe. Maybe that's why I'm winning. I need to talk about that (laughter). But, no, we didn't joke around about the topic," Sabalenka said.

Aryna Sabalenka and Novak Djokovic
Aryna Sabalenka and Novak Djokovic© Getty Images Sport - Kelly Defina

Sabalenka on being 'addicted' to winning and her future Grand Slam aspirations

In 2019 November, Sabalenka's father Sergey suddenly passed away. Before his death, Sabalenka promised him she would win at least two Grand Slams before making it past 25 years of age. Four months before turning 26, Sabalenka lifted her second Grand Slam title and fulfilled the promise she made to her father. 

For Sabalenka, winning two Grand Slams in 12 months is a major accomplishment. But Sabalenka remains as hungry as ever as the Belarusian underlines she is "addicted to winning" and will try to win as many Grand Slams as she can before retiring.

"My mindset is to keep doing what I'm doing, keep fighting, keep working. After my career, to look back and think, Whoa, I was able to achieve that. That's crazy," Sabalenka said.

"I'm not the type person that is going to win something and stop. Like I said, I'm addicted to wins. I felt like it's just something in my blood and I keep doing, keep working, and hopefully keep winning."

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

Sabalenka on her Dubai chances

At this week's WTA 1000 event in Dubai, Sabalenka is set to compete in her first tournament since the Australian Open. So far this season, Sabalenka has made the final in each of the two tournaments she participated in - the Brisbane International and the Australian Open. In her pre-tournament press conference, Sabalenka appeared to be a bit stunned after a reporter very directly asked her if she thinks she is going to reach her third final of the season in Dubai.

"Wow, what a question," Sabalenka responded.

"You never know. Like, you can win the tournament and it's not going to... How to say? It doesn't mean that the next tournament you're going to win or you're going to reach the final. You never know.

"The last season is the last season and it's not going to affect this season. You still have to work for it. But I do my very best to reach the final or probably win the tournament.

"I like this tournament. I like this place. Like, winning this tournament means a lot for me. It's one of the goals. I'll do my best."

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Christopher Pike

Sabalenka, who had a first-round bye in Dubai as the second-seeded player, will be taking on Donna Vekic, who defeated Wang Xinyu in the first round. A bit surprisingly, Sabalenka has a negative record against Vekic as the Croatian has won five of their seven meetings. However, it should be highlighted that Sabalenka beat Vekic in straight sets when they met the last time at the 2023 Australian Open.

If Sabalenka passes the Vekic test and makes the latter stages in the tournament, she could face some tough competition as her biggest rivals Iga Swiatek, Elena Rybakina and Coco Gauff are also set to compete. But Sabalenka is embracing that challenge as she seemingly hopes to play against the best en route to potentially winning her first Dubai title this year.

"I love it actually. I do love it. I love to face really tough challenges in the last stages of the tournaments. I think, like, every final I play against Jelena or Iga, it's always a great battle," Sabalenka said.

"I always enjoy fighting, kind of like enjoy trying to get it instead of get it easily, if I can say that. I like to fight for wins."

When Sabalenka takes on Vekic, she will officially be kicking off her seventh main draw appearance in Dubai. In the past, Sabalenka reached the Dubai quarterfinals in 2020, 2021 and 2023.

Aryna Sabalenka Novak Djokovic Australian Open