Aryna Sabalenka brushes aside Coco Gauff and admits she is ‘a different player’

Shahida Jacobs
Aryna Sabalenka after a match

A “calm” Aryna Sabalenka took her 2023 record to 16-1 as she trashed Coco Gauff at the Indian Wells Open and admitted afterwards that she is more in control of her emotions now that she is a Grand Slam winner.

After falling in the semi-final stage in three majors, Sabalenka broke her duck at this year’s Australian Open as she not only reached her maiden final but also won the title with a three-set defeat of Elena Rybakina.

It was her second title of the year, but winning a Grand Slam has definitely given her an extra boost.

That boost was on full display during her quarter-final clash against Gauff in California as she blitzed the teenager 6-4, 6-0 win in just over an hour.

It has been quite transformation for the world No 2 as she struggled with her serve in 2022 as she sent down 427 double faults and at one point had to serve underarm, but against Gauff she had zero double faults.

“I feel a little bit different on the court this year. I feel like I’m a little bit a different player,” she said after the match.

“Because before, I didn’t have a Slam, and every time I felt so much pressure from myself because I really wanted to get it. And every time something would happen, I would lose really close matches just because I really wanted it. I would miss so many easy shots,” she said.

“Right now it’s given me more belief and understanding what I have to do on those important matches.”

The second seed added: “I think I’m more calm on court, and I’m able to control my emotions, which help me to stay in the game no matter what, and just fight for every point, without losing my mind and without giving like easy points to opponents.”

Sabalenka will face seventh seed Maria Sakkari next after the Greek made it back-to-back Indian Wells semi-finals with yet another three-set win as she defeated 17th seed Petra Kvitova 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.

All three of Sakkari’s matches in California have gone the distance this week.

World No 1 Iga Swiatek will continue her title defence on Thursday when she takes on Sorana Cirstea while the winner of that clash will face either reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina or Karolina Muchova.

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