Aryna Sabalenka fends off best friend, advances at French Open

League: Tennis

Posted on: 02 Jun, 2024 at 12:32 AM

Credit: Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports

Second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka kept her emotions in check and defeated her best friend and doubles partner to advance to the fourth round of the French Open.

Sabalenka, of Belarus, overcame a tough first set and cruised to a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Spaniard Paula Badosa on Saturday.

"It's tough to play your best friend. She's an incredible player coming back after (a back) injury, and I'm pretty sure she's going to be back on top very soon," Sabalenka said. "It's very tough, but we're good to separate things. On court ... I'm trying not to watch the other side, just to focus on myself and bring my best game."

Sabalenka finished off the fellow 26-year-old in 77 minutes before the two embraced at the net.

"Today was a day when I wasn't thinking that much," Sabalenka said. "I was just feeling the game and trusting myself and going for all those shots."

Sabalenka, a semifinalist at last year's French Open, will face No. 22 seed Emma Navarro of the United States in the fourth round. Navarro downed countrywoman and No. 14 seed Madison Keys 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3) later Saturday.

Also on Saturday, fourth-seeded Elena Rybakina breezed to a 6-4, 6-2 win over Elise Mertens of Belgium in 67 minutes.

"In the second set, I was playing with a bit more confidence and my serve improved," Rybakina said.

Rybakina, a Russian-born Kazakh player, will encounter 15th-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the next round. Svitolina beat Ana Bogdan of Romania 7-5, 6-2.

Unseeded Elina Avanesyan of Russia rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (6) upset of No. 7 seed Zheng Qinwen of China. It marks the second straight year in which Avanesyan has reached the round of 16.

Avanesyan next faces No. 12 seed Jasmine Paolini after the Italian stunned 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 in 93 minutes.

Also, Varvara Gracheva posted a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania to become the first French woman since 2020 to reach the fourth round. She will face 17-year-old Russian Mirra Andreeva, who rolled past Peyton Stearns 6-2, 6-1 in just 67 minutes.

"I really like the way I always stayed calm, and I played point-by-point," Andreeva said. "I didn't really think about the score."

--Field Level Media