BRISBANE, Australia: On Saturday, Aryna Sabalenka acknowledged feeling the pressure following her monumental 2023, where she secured her inaugural Grand Slam victory at the Australian Open, yet credited a newfound mindset for aiding her in handling it.
Sabalenka, the 25-year-old Belarusian who secured the runner-up spot at the US Open and reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon and Roland Garros en route to claiming the world number one title, is currently trailing Poland’s Iga Swiatek in the world rankings. Despite this, she holds the top seed position at the upcoming Brisbane International starting this Sunday.
Expressing her dedication, she highlighted her intensive training during the off-season, aiming to achieve a feat unmatched since Victoria Azarenka’s back-to-back Australian Open victories in 2012 and 2013. However, she admitted to grappling with heightened pressure as the defending champion at Melbourne Park.
“Last year I did an amazing job, it wasn’t easy to do,” Sabalenka said.
“It’s not going to be easy this season. Just having this kind of thought in the background of your mind, actually having a title to defend, makes it actually not easy. “I’m trying not to put pressure on myself. I’m just trying to prepare myself as good as I can – it’s not an easy thing to do, especially with the Grand Slams.”
“I kind of accept the fact that I can lose, that everyone can go out there and beat me if I’m not bringing my best tennis,” she said.
“Accepting this fact gives you more belief – you’re more calm on the court in those crucial moments.
“Worst case, what happens?” she asked. “I’m going to lose a Grand Slam, lose some points, drop a little bit in the rankings.
“But there’s so many tournaments ahead. I’m going to try to do my best to be in another Grand Slam or in other tournaments. “That’s why I like my mindset, you can beat me, but I’m going to prepare every match and have huge chances to win match after match, probably to hold the trophy.”
Sabalenka, receiving a first-round bye in Brisbane, is set to face either Lucia Bronzetti from Italy or Ashlyn Krueger in the second round.