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“I destroyed myself” – Sabalenka ponders over missed opportunities after US Open loss

Aryna Sabalenka was defeated in the semi-final stage for the second Grand Slam in a row. The Belarusian says she was disappointed at not making the most of her opportunities on Thursday night

Aryna Sabalenka at the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Aryna Sabalenka at the 2021 U.S. Open tennis tournament at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Credit: AI / REUTERS / PANORAMIC

World No 2 Aryna Sabalenka was left ruing her missed opportunities after three-set semi-final loss at the US Open in New York on Thursday night.

Playing in her second consecutive Grand Slam semi-final, Sabalenka was defeated by 18-year-old Leylah Fernandez. The Canadian won 7-6, 4-6, 6-4 in two hours and 21 minutes to advance to her first Major final while denying Sabalenka a shot at Grand Slam glory herself.

Speaking to the media after her loss, Sabalenka said she did not take advantage of the opportunities she had in the match but gave full credit to her opponent for making the most of hers.

“The simple things that if you have opportunity, just go for it, don’t overthink. This is easy to say. When you’re on the court, you starting thinking a lot. As far you go in the draw, more expectation you have. This is something that actually I’m struggling with because in the beginning of the tournament I was out of the shape honestly. I wasn’t playing well on the tournament before. I wasn’t playing well on the practice. I was, like, getting crazy on the practice.”

Aryna Sabalenka, US Open 2021 – Panoramic

Sabalenka started the match strong, going up 3-0 in the first set, and leading 4-2 when Fernandez fought back to level the set and took the set to a tiebreaker. The Belarusian hit two double faults in the seventh game of the first set and the final game of the third set – both crucial moments in the trajectory of the match.

“This is what we call pressure. That’s why I’m a little bit disappointed about this match because, as I said, I had a lot of opportunities and I didn’t use it. Well, this is life. If you’re not using your opportunities, someone else will use it. This is what happened today. I will try to improve it. I will keep working and fighting, and I believe that one day it will come. I was just sometimes overhitting, sometimes I didn’t move well. As I said, on the key moment, I was up 4-2 serving, and I think I made double-faults. My first-serve percentage wasn’t really good. I wouldn’t say that she did something. I would say that I destroy myself (smiling).

“Everything is going her way” – Sabalenka on Leylah Fernandez’s magical US Open run

While Sabalenka was left to wonder about her missed chances, Fernandez continued her strong run, winning over the New York crowd with her electrifying game and personality.

Sabalenka said that Fernandez has been in the zone this fortnight with everything falling into place for the 19-year-old, who will meet fellow teen Emma Raducanu in Saturday’s final.

“Seems like in these two weeks, everything working well for her. Like this is nothing to lose. People are here supporting her like she’s kind of on the top of the situation. She’s staying on the baseline, hitting I would say sometimes crazy shots and everything is going in. I would say everything is going her way, yeah.”

Sabalenka did throw caution to the wind, saying that Fernandez has been playing without no expectations this time in New York but it remains to be seen if she can do the same when the expectations rise as it will after this US Open.

“Well, now there is no pressure on her at all. Crowd are here for her. You kind of feeling this crush and you’re using it, hitting the ball, don’t really thinking, everything is going in. This is nice kind of feeling. I felt it before. This is cool. But the question is when you will start to understand what’s going on and where you are, how good can you deal with all these expectations and all this level, all this pressure.

For now she’s playing well. It was tight match. I was doing everything. I can say that I gave it all today. Of course I could do better. Of course, I had a lot of opportunities. But it is how it is. I have to learn from this and move on. But yeah, now she’s like top-10 player. We’ll see how good she will be in the future.”

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