"No big fights" - Aryna Sabalenka on current WTA players, unlike yesteryear stars like Serena Williams & Maria Sharapova, being friends with rivals

Serena Williams with Maria Sharapova (L) and Aryna Sabalenka (R) [Source: Getty Images]
Serena Williams with Maria Sharapova (L) and Aryna Sabalenka (R) [Source: Getty Images]

Aryna Sabalenka recently commented on the camaraderie among current WTA players, unlike the rivalries of past tennis stars such as Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova. She stated that today's players maintain friendly relationships with their competitors and have mutual respect rather than intense conflicts.

Sabalenka is currently in Paris, competing at the 2024 French Open. Seeded second, she kicked off her campaign by defeating Erika Andreeva 6-1, 6-2 in the first round. She then secured a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Japanese qualifier Moyuka Uchijima in just over an hour to advance to the third round.

This win over Uchijima marked Sabalenka's 14th consecutive Grand Slam appearance where she has reached the third round or beyond. Her last defeat before this stage was against Victoria Azarenka (the eventual runner-up) in the second round of the 2020 US Open.

During the post-match press conference, a journalist asked Aryna Sabalenka about the possibility of being friends with her rivals in today's tennis landscape, contrasting it with the more distant relationships between players like Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova in the past.

"It seems like a lot of the top players here nowadays are friendly. But in the past, that wasn't the case, as you know, with Serena and Maria. When you first came on the tour, did you think it was possible to be friends with your rivals?" the journalist asked.

In response, Sabalenka shared that at the start of her professional career, she kept her distance from other players on tour, believing it was the norm. However, over the years, she has come to realize that this approach is not necessary, and she now maintains a friendly attitude towards all her competitors.

"I would say that at the beginning I was so close, and I thought that this is the way everything is. Everyone is just kind of like, off and like you cannot be friends with anybody. But then, with time and experience, you kind of figure out stuff, and you're getting good with each other," Aryna Sabalenka said [at 5:47].

Sabalenka stated that the top 10 players on the WTA Tour have amicable relationships with each other. While they are fiercely competitive on the court, off the court, they are friendly and enjoy each other's company.

"I would say that right now, the top 10 players we're all good with each other, and there are no like these kinds of like big fights in between, I mean outside off the court. Of course, on-court, we're opponents, but of course we can absolutely talk, we can have fun. Not like we're best friends, but it's not like something you know is tough; how to say something crazy like intense," she added [at 6:09].
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Aryna Sabalenka will face her close friend Paula Badosa in French Open 2024 3R

Paula Badosa and Aryna Sabalenka
Paula Badosa and Aryna Sabalenka

Aryna Sabalenka will go up against her close friend Paula Badosa in the third round of the 2024 French Open.

Badosa, unseeded, kicked off her Roland Garros campaign by defeating 26th seed Katie Boulter 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the first round. She then went on to secure her spot in the third round by defeating Yulia Putintseva 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 in the second.

Sabalenka and Badosa have faced each other six times on the WTA Tour, with the Belarusian emerging victorious in four out of their six encounters. Their most recent match took place in the second round of the 2024 Stuttgart Open, where Sabalenka won after Badosa was forced to retire due to a left thigh injury, with the scoreline at 7-6(4), 4-6, 3-3 ret.

The upcoming match between Aryna Sabalenka and Paula Badosa at the 2024 French Open will mark their seventh meeting on the tour.

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