French Open: Aryna Sabalenka finds her mark in opening-round win over Marta Kostyuk

Magdalena Frech and Nadia Podoroska also won their openers with ease

by Abbey Johnson
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French Open: Aryna Sabalenka finds her mark in opening-round win over Marta Kostyuk

Aryna Sabalenka had a little bit of work to do in her 6-3, 6-2 win over Marta Kostyuk in the first round of the 2023 French Open. The world no. 2 and the second seed at the Major wrapped up the easy-seeming win in an hour and 11 minutes but not before she’d thwarted Kostyuk’s attempt at making a late comeback into the match.

Earlier, Sabalenka began the match on a nervous note and although she held her ground in the opening couple of games, Kostyuk kept probing at her serve. The Ukrainian’s was the first to get the breakthrough in the match as she broke Sabalenka in the fifth game of the first set.

But losing her serve seemed to be the catalyst Sabalenka needed to spur her own. From the sixth game onwards, she started executing her shots better, finding winners even as Kostyuk struggled to match up to her higher-ranked opponent’s level.

Sabalenka gained the break back in the sixth game itself and a second break of the world no. 39’s serve in the eighth game gave Sabalenka a chance to serve for the set. In the second set, Sabalenka picked up from where she left of in the opener.

The set began with a break of Kostyuk’s serve and soon enough, Sabalenka went up a double break. Trying to salvage some momentum for herself, Kostyuk held her ground – and her serve – in the seventh game, forcing Sabalenka to serve out the match.

Serving for the match, Sabalenka’s nerves almost gave her carefully-knit game away as she faced two break back points. But she held on long enough to stave the both off and then convert the win on the first match point that came her way.

French Open: Aryna Sabalenka stays steady

Sabalenka finished with 19 winners to Kostyuk’s 11. She did have 21 unforced errors to the 20-year-old’s 21 but where the latter had 23 forced errors, Sabalenka had just 13 of those.

The 25-year-old’s weakness throughout the match was exposed when she’d to come to the net. Of the four points she played at the net, Sabalenka won only one while Kostyuk won six of the eight points she played at the net.

In the second round, Sabalenka will play either Panna Udvardy or qualifier Iryna Shyamanovich. Earlier, Magdalena Frech was the first player to win a match at the 2023 French Open. The Pole upset 29th seed Shuai Zhang 6-1, 6-1 in merely 47 minutes.

Former semi-finalist in Paris, Nadia Podoroska was also among the early winners on Sunday, clinching a 6-0, 6-2 win over home wildcard, Jessika Ponchet.

Aryna Sabalenka Marta Kostyuk Magdalena Frech
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