Tennis Masters: Aryna Sabalenka, an opponent as flamboyant as she is inconstant for Caroline Garcia

Almost three weeks ago, her defeat in the first round of the Guadalajara tournament (Mexico) against the Russian Liudmila Samsonova had, mathematically, ensured Caroline Garcia to participate in the Masters. Monday, November 7, Aryna Sabalenka (7e world) will find the French (6e world) in the final of the prestigious end-of-season meeting, which brings together the eight best players of the year, in Fort Worth (Texas).

Read also: Tennis: Caroline Garcia qualifies for her first WTA Masters final

The Belarusian surprised last night by overthrowing Poland’s Iga Swiatek (6-2, 2-6, 6-1), world number 1 and winner of eight titles – including Roland-Garros and the US – in the semi-finals. Open – this year. The latter, who had beaten her in their last four meetings, had nevertheless flown over the group stage by winning her three matches in straight sets. ” Every time I play against her, I just want to make sure I give her a hard time.”reacted the seventh player in the world after her feat.

“The queen of double faults”

At 24, the player from Minsk will play, on the night of Monday to Tuesday – at 3 a.m. Paris time – the most important final of her career. A ” miracle ” for the one whose powerful but risky game made her life particularly hard in 2022. “I have been the queen of double faults this season [398 au total cette année, elle est celle qui en a fait le plus]she joked before the tournament. This year has been really difficult, I’m very happy to be here, it’s a miracle. »

Capable of the best and the worst, the Belarusian had chained early eliminations during the first months of the season, despite an honorable round of 16 at the Australian Open in January. Very aggressive and with a big shot, the one who is nicknamed “the tigress” because of her tiger tattoo on her left arm then showed her fangs and reached the final in Stuttgart (Germany) in April, then that of the ‘s-Hertogenbosch tournament (Netherlands) in June.

But it was above all this summer that Sabalenka, who had finished the year 2021 in second place in the world (his best ranking), regained his splendor, and that unforced errors gave way to winning shots. Semi-finalist at the US Open, the Belarusian also reached the semi-finals of the Cincinnati tournament in August, beaten by… Caroline Garcia (2-6, 6-4, 1-6).

Read also: Tennis: Caroline Garcia wins the Cincinnati tournament

If the two players are tied in their confrontations (2-2), the French will have the psychological advantage since she has won their last two matches. ” Aryna plays very good tennis here, warns the Lyonnaise all the same in the columns of The Team. She takes her chance. I will have to put pressure on him, use his ball well. »

“I want to be myself, with my own identity”

Expressive player who can switch between clenched fists and ” come on “ Shrill with tears and racket throws, the Belarusian sometimes allows herself to be overwhelmed by stress. This has not prevented her from winning ten singles titles so far, and from accessing the throne in doubles, after her crowning at the Australian Open in 2021 with the Belgian Elise Mertens against the Czechs Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova.

If his game sparks, his personality and his outspokenness too. From the top of her eighty-two meter, Sabalenka imposes by the cries that she pushes with each racket stroke… even the amortized balls. A habit that earned her the mockery of the Australian public when she faced Ashleigh Barty in the first round of the Australian Open in 2018. “I don’t really care about that because I’m not the only one, she reacted to Gulf News a few weeks later. I apologize to the players if it upsets them, but that’s how I am. I want to be myself, with my own identity. »

In Fort Worth, the Belarusian, now trained by her former sparring partner Anton Dubrov, once again alternated between good and bad. Thanks to her victory against Iga Swiatek in the semi-finals, she became the fourth player in history to beat the three world leaders in the same tournament – ​​in the group stage, she won against the Tunisian Ons Jabeur (2e world) and the American Jessica Pegula (3e world) and lost to the Greek Maria Sakkari (5e world).

Where I have progressed is that when something does not work, I try to find something else to win. (…) I try to remain lucid and professional”, she confided during the US Open. It remains to be seen which Aryna Sabalenka will appear against Caroline Garcia next night.


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