Aryna Sabalenka issues brutally honest take on Emma Raducanu's game, quality

Sabalenka beat Raducanu in two sets in their first-ever meeting in Indian Wells.

by Dzevad Mesic
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Aryna Sabalenka issues brutally honest take on Emma Raducanu's game, quality
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka was full of praise for Emma Raducanu following their Indian Wells match, calling the 21-year-old "an incredible player" and highlighting that she is absolutely capable of playing some great tennis. 

On Monday, two-time Grand Slam champion Sabalenka defeated 2021 US Open champion Raducanu 6-3 7-5 to progress into the Indian Wells round-of-16. 

Going into the match, there was a lot of hype and interesting considering that both Sabalenka and Raducanu are one of the most popular players in the game. While the match ended with Sabalenka getting the job done in two sets, the match still featured some great tennis and it definitely didn't disappoint. 

After sealing a win, Sabalenka was asked one interesting question as a reporter wanted to know if in the key moments she had in mind the fact that Raducanu was a Grand Slam champion. 

"I wasn't thinking about that at all, to be honest. I'm happy that I'm able to focus on myself during these tough moments," Sabalenka said in her press conference.

"She's an incredible player and she played great tennis today, even though she didn't play many matches in the past couple of months.

"But still, I know that the level is there, and she can play some great tennis. But in those key moments, I was focusing on myself and the things that I have to do on the court to be in this match, and I think it's worked well."

Aryna Sabalenka and Emma Raducanu
Aryna Sabalenka and Emma Raducanu© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

Sabalenka was made to work hard by Raducanu

After five relatively calm games, Sabalenka earned the first break points and the first break of the match in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead. With Sabalenka 5-2 up and Raducanu serving to stay in the first set, the Belarusian had two consecutive break points but didn't convert. 

After saving two set points, Raducanu had a great chance to fully get back into the first set but then didn't convert any of her four break points in the ninth game as the set finished after Sabalenka earned her third set point and realized it. 

Midway through the second set, Sabalenka broke Raducanu to go 3-2 up but her lead was short-lived after the Briton managed to get the break back in the following game. After saving a break point in the eighth game, the No. 2 seed gave herself a chance to serve out for the match after breaking the Briton in the 11th game. 

With her back turned against the wall, Raducanu refused to quit as she put up a major fight in the 12th game and saved three match points before Sabalenka realized her fourth match point to fend off the 21-year-old. Before closing the match, the Belarusian also faced three break points in the 12th game. 

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

How Sabalenka felt about Raducanu's fighting spirit and competitiveness?

After the match, Sabalenka acknowledged that Raducanu didn't make it easy for her and praised the former world No. 10 for her fighting spirit and competitiveness.

"Yeah, she fought till the end. She didn't give up in the last game. She was trying her best and during the match she was fighting for it," Sabalenka said of Raducanu. 

"Of course I was super happy that I was able to close this match in two sets, and the last game was tight. You know, like, I felt like the last game was kind of like a key moment. If I would lose that game this would give her emotionally like much more belief and confidence, and going to the tiebreak you never know. It's like 50/50. I didn't want that to happen.

"That's why I felt a little bit of relief after I closed this match in two sets."

Aryna Sabalenka and Emma Raducanu
Aryna Sabalenka and Emma Raducanu© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill
 

After meeting Raducanu for the first time, 25-year-old Sabalenka is now also set to meet rising American star Emma Navarro for the first time. 

Navarro, who is in the midst of her breakthrough season, continued her strong 2024 form on Monday by upsetting former world No. 3 Elina Svitolina 6-1 4-6 6-3. Currently, Navarro is enjoying a career-high ranking of No. 23 in the world and earlier this year she won her first title in Hobert and also made the Auckland semifinal. 

Although Navarro has been playing the tennis of her life in early 2024, there is no doubt that Sabalenka will enter their match as the favorite. However, it is also safe to say that the two-time Grand Slam champion will take the 22-year-old very seriously as the American has proved this year that she is definitely capable of playing high-level tennis. 

While Sabalenka is aiming to win the Indian Wells title, Raducanu turns her focus on next week's Miami, for which she received a main draw wildcard. 

Aryna Sabalenka Emma Raducanu Indian Wells
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