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“I have everything in my pocket” – confident Sabalenka patiently pursues Grand Slam glory

Aryna Sabalenka is just 24 and still very much coming into her own as a force on the Grand Slam stage.

Aryna Sabalenka 2023 Australian Open Aryna Sabalenka 2023 Australian Open || AI / Reuters / Panoramic
Australian Open •First round • completed
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One thing to take into account whenever we discuss the rollercoaster ride that has been Aryna Sabalenka’s performance over the last five years: she’s still yet to turn 25!

Yes, tennis is getting younger by the minute, after the retirement of Serena Williams and the rise of Iga Swiatek – the world No 1 will not turn 22 until this May – but Sabalenka, if she continues to evolve and master the demons that have dragged her down in seasons past, likely hasn’t even approached her prime years yet.

In other words, her time could very well be coming.

She sees it that way as well. On Tuesday, after defeating Tereza Martincova 6-1 6-4 at the Australian Open, the No 5 seed explained that she is feeling more confidence in 2023 simply because of the fact that everything she went through in 2022 didn’t send her into a vicious spiral.

Now that she’s found that she can remain a top-10 player while struggling mightily on serve, Sabalenka wonders what could be possible when she clicks on all cylinders.

“I think I need to work on my mindset. I have to be calm and I have to just fight for every point and not get upset with every mistake I’m making – I really believe that this is the only thing missing in my game.”

— Aryna Sabalenka

“I think just because of the last year and because I was struggling with a lot of things, and just because I was able to fix all the problems I was facing last year, and of course after a title, of course I felt like a little bit more confidence.

“I just feel that I have everything in my pocket, and I just have to show that.”

The mindset is the only thing missing

On court after her victory on Tuesday, Sabalenka again expressed her confidence. She says she believes that the only thing missing from her game is the winning mindset. Clearly she is focused on the development of the mental aspect of her game.

“I think I need to work on my mindset,” she said. “I have to be calm and I have to just fight for every point and not get upset with every mistake I’m making – I really believe that this is the only thing missing in my game.”

Aryna Sabalenka, 2022
Aryna Sabalenka, 2022, WT Finals (| © AP Photo/LM Otero/SIPA)

Enjoying the Slams more than before

As Sabalenka matures, she learns to cope with the stress of high performance in the biggest events. It has been a process for her at the Slams, but she is gradually learning to relax at the majors.

“Few years ago, I didn’t really like it,” she said of playing majors, where players must typically wait a full day between rounds. “I didn’t like to stay with myself like waiting for the next match, for like one extra day like of thinking. It was killing me. Probably that’s why I couldn’t really success on the slams because I was, like, overthinking and it was creating a lot more pressure.

“But right now I really like it. I like to take it step by step, and I learn myself a little bit better, and I know how to switch off from tennis. Right now I really enjoy this format, you know. Like, I like to stay longer in the slams, enjoy the atmosphere and enjoy the time.”

It remains to be seen how high Aryna Sabalenka can fly on the Grand Slam stage. There have been pitfalls on her journey, but all the while she has continued to be a presence inside the top-10. She’s a disruptive force that is still very much learning to harness all the power she possesses.

If – and likely when – she does, the tour better be on alert.

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