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“This was like final” – Sabalenka thrilled with night-session atmosphere in win over Stephens

Aryna Sabalenka has praised the night-session atmosphere at Roland-Garros, stating that her win over Sloane Stephens was the perfect preparation for her upcoming quarter-final match

Aryna Sabalenka, Roland-Garros 2023 Aryna Sabalenka, Roland-Garros 2023 | © AI / Reuters / Panoramic

For the first time at Roland-Garros 2023, a women’s match headlined the night-session on Court Phillipe-Chatrier with Aryna Sabalenka taking on Sloane Stephens for a spot in the quarter-finals.

Sabalenka won the match in an entertaining straight sets, in what was a success for women’s tennis as an engaged crowd turned up.

“That was amazing. At first, I didn’t expect that much people. It was a lot of people watching us play. It was great atmosphere, great support,” Sabalenka said in her post-match comments.

“That was crazy” – Sabalenka praises Phillipe-Chatrier atmosphere

The Belarussian player went on to praise the atmosphere of Phillipe-Chatrier in the night-session, saying it felt like playing in a final.

“That was crazy match. I don’t know, there was something, I felt like this was like final match. It was like full crowd. Everyone was just like, I felt like they enjoy it, I hope they enjoy it. Yeah, that was incredible.

“I enjoy playing night session. I think it’s a little bit different tennis and different atmosphere. And, yeah, that was just amazing, amazing match today.”

Sabalenka certainly gave the late night fans a healthy dose of entertainment, racing out to a 5-0 lead in the first set, before faltering and letting Sloane Stephens back into the set. The American drew level and forced a tiebreak, with Sabalenka regaining her composure to win 7-5 in the breaker.

Aryna Sabalenka vs Sloane Stephens - Round 4 Highlights I Roland-Garros 2023

Sabalenka: Night match perfect preparation ahead of quarter-finals

This was no easy win for Aryna Sabalenka. With the Belarussian typically leaning on her power to hit through opponents, the slow conditions of the night session took the edge of some of the No 2 seed’s weapons.

Instead, Sabalenka had to rely on patience, playing more traditional clay court tennis and building points towards a winning position.

“It’s a good match to play on the clay court,” said Sabalenka of her match against Stephens. “It’s a good preparation. If you can get through this match, you can get through whatever happens to you, you know. Like, it was really tough, tough match.

“A lot of balls coming back. It wasn’t easy to finish the point. So I always had to find this perfect shot to finish it, and that was tricky. Yeah, that was tough.”

Next up, Sabalenka faces the resurgent Elina Svitolina, who is into the quarter-finals after an impressive win over No 9 seed Daria Kasatkina 6-4, 7-6 (5). Neither Sabalenka nor Svitolina has made a Roland-Garros semi-final before, something that will change for one woman in the next few days.

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