Aryna Sabalenka gives injury update ahead of Roland Garros and also discusses ‘underdog’ tag

Shahida Jacobs
Aryna Sabalenka in action
Aryna Sabalenka reacts during her tennis match

Aryna Sabalenka has admitted that she was a little cautious during the Italian Open final as she didn’t want to aggravate her injury, although world No 2 insisted that she didn’t lose against Iga Swiatek because of the problem.

Sabalenka has struggled with a back injury since the early rounds of the WTA 1000 event in Rome and she revealed before the final against Swiatek that she considered withdrawing from the tournament at one point.

She managed to nurse her way to the final, but came up against an inspired world No 1 on Saturday as the Pole brushed her aside 6-2, 6-3 at Foro Italico to win back-to-back Madrid Open-Italian Open titles.

Sabalenka confirmed afterwards that her performance was hampered by her injury.

“When you have some sort of injury and you’re trying to recovery during the tournament, anyways it stays in the back of your mind. You try to kind of, like, protect your body a little bit. So probably in some points there was moments where I could push myself a little bit more but I didn’t want to get injured before Roland Garros,” she said.

It’s kind of like affecting you a little bit just by being there in the back of your mind. But I wouldn’t say I lost the match today because of my back. Obviously not.

“I think I did pretty well here in Rome struggling with illness, then injury, lots of stuff happened. Anyway, proud of myself that I’ve been able to get to the final, no matter what.”

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Following her Madrid and Rome successes, defending champion Swiatek will head to Roland Garros as the clear favourite with Sabalenka behind her as the world No 2.

Sabalenka, who reached the semi-final last year, doesn’t see herself as the underdog.

“I’m not like [an] underdog there. Being No 2 seeded, it’s tough to call yourself ‘underdog’,” she said.

“I’m definitely not the favourite probably there. But at the same time I do feel that I can actually go for it. It’s 50/50, you know? But I prefer to be underdog (smiling).

“I really hope I’m going to make it to the final and I really hope I’ll be able to get that win, if it’s Iga or not. It’s an amazing tournament. It’s a Grand Slam. I’ll just go there and fight for every point and see what happens after the tournament.”