Aryna Sabalenka addresses 'intense last month' in Madrid after tragic death of ex-BF

Sabalenka had a rough few months but turned the page around in Madrid.

by Dzevad Mesic
Aryna Sabalenka addresses 'intense last month' in Madrid after tragic death of ex-BF
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Aryna Sabalenka appeared to be a bit lost at the start of her Madrid Open runner-up speech as the Belarusian tennis star described the last month as "intense" following a tragic death of her ex-boyfriend and a couple of not-so-great results.

After successfully defending her Australian Open, Sabalenka went just 4-4 in her next four tournaments. Off the court, Sabalenka also wasn't doing great as she was hit by a major tragedy after her ex-boyfriend Konstantin Koltsov died by apparent suicide in Miami in March.

But in Madrid, Sabalenka managed to turn the page around and clinch a couple of really strong wins as her run to the final included victories over Elena Rybakina and Danielle Collins. In the Madrid final, Sabalenka was inches away from successfully defending her title but Iga Swiatek won a nail-bitter 7-5 4-6 7-6 (7) after saving three match points in three hours and 11 minutes of play.

"Last month has been kind of intense for me and it feels like I haven’t been on stage forever. I’m speechless right now," Sabalenka said at the start of her runner-up speech. 

"Thank you so much for such an incredible tournament, thank you for the atmosphere, you guys make this place very special for me and I enjoy playing in front of you all. I just tried to make this match as long as possible to enjoy this beautiful court and atmosphere."

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Usually, a runner-up starts its speech by congratulating the winner. After realizing that she actually first started talking about herself, Sabalenka apolgized and offered some nice words to the Pole.

"I actually supposed to start from Iga – sorry I’m lost a little bit. Congrats on another great tournament. You guys are doing an incredible job, and hopefully next tournament it goes to me – we will swap! Great play, great match. Wow, three hours it’s a long one. I hope we both recover for the next tournament," Sabalenka told Swiatek.

Sabalenka tells Swiatek her wish for the future

On Saturday evening in Madrid, Sabalenka and Swiatek met for the 10th time in their careers and it was the fourth time they were squarring off in a final. Now, Swiatek has seven wins and three losses against Sabalenka and she is also 3-1 against the Belarusian in their matches that came in tournament finals. 

Even though Sabalenka has a negative head-to-head versus Swiatek and has lost three finals versus the Pole, the two-time Grand Slam champion hopes to meet the current world No. 1 many more times in finals.

"I really want to see many more finals against her (Iga). I wanna see more wins than losses. But I really hope that we'll be able to increase the level every year. I'm really happy to be one of these Big 3 as you call us. It's really motivating me a lot to keep working," Sabalenka said.

Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek
Aryna Sabalenka and Iga Swiatek © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Sabalenka on Swiatek 'ruining' her birthday

For Sabalenka, losing the Madrid final wasn't painful only because of the result but also because it came just hours before midnight in Madrid and her 26th birthday. 

When reflecting on losing a final in which she had three match points, Sabalenka admitted it wasn't easy and that it may impact her birthday, which is this Sunday. However, Sabalenka remained hopeful that she would be able to mentally quickly put it away and enjoy a nice birthday. 

“I think it's tougher, especially remembering all your thoughts on all your match points and the way you played. It was just, like, too close. I think it's tougher. But for me, you know, I'm going to suffer for a day, and tomorrow I'm leaving to Rome, so I'm going to forget it quickly. It's my birthday tomorrow. I hope I'm going to be in a good mood," Sabalenka said.

"Anyway, I'm going to be in a good mood. I am 26 tomorrow. It sucks. But it's a tough one. You know, it's a tough one to accept. But at the same time, it's not like you lost the match easily and you didn't do your best. I think I gave my all today, and I just can be proud of myself, and hopefully, like we spoke on the court, next year it goes to my side (smiling).”

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

In Rome, 26-year-old Sabalenka is set to make her sixth appearance. In the past, Sabalenka had only one big Rome run as she made the semifinal in 2022 before losing to Swiatek. Last year, Sabalenka suffered a shock loss to Sofia Kenin in her Rome opening match.

It remains to be seen if Sabalenka can back up her Madrid result and make back-to-back strong runs at the WTA 1000 level.

Aryna Sabalenka