Aryna Sabalenka has admitted that she can be ultra-serious on court but insists that it is necessary for her to show her best tennis.
The 20-year-old has climbed as high in the WTA Ranking as World No.9, having enjoyed steady upwards progress throughout her career.
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In 2018, she was named the WTA Newcomer of the Year and started 2019 with a bang, winning in Shenzhen. Since, she has proven her quality on the doubles court with Elise Mertens, with whom she claimed the Sunshine Double of Miami and Indian Wells.
She admits, however, she has to be persistently aggressive on court.
“It’s like I’m two different people,” she said. “On court, I can’t laugh all the time. I need to be focused and serious to show my best and play my best game.
“Off the court, I try to smile and relax and be like a normal person! Not like a crazy girl.”
Coach Dmitry Tursunov has been in her corner for close to a year, and while the Belarusian admits that the relationship can sometimes be thorny, it is clearly one that has borne fruit, with the fiery youngster having shown a cooler head in recent months.
“It’s a hard process to work together for a long time. Sometimes you fight and you’re like: ‘Wow, wow, wow!’ Sometimes I’m like: ‘No, I don’t want to listen to you.’ It’s all about working at it,” she said.
“He explained to me that I need to put more than two or three balls in – and it’s true!”
Tursunov, who reached as high as ATP World No.20 during a playing career that ended in 2017, is realistic about any disputes that crop up and says that above all, they do get on well: “We have a few fights here and there but I think they’re necessary. You’re never going to be euphorious for the entire time you’re working together so it would be silly to expect that.
“I feel it has to click off the court. You have to click in terms of personality. You have to like each other as people.”
And the greatest strength of his charge?
“She’s a smart girl, so she catches on quickly,” he said. “She understands things so it’s a question of presenting the right information and for her to analyse it and be open minded.”
Having lost in the first round at both the French Open and Wimbledon in 2018, the next few months offer the tantalising prospect of even greater heights being reached by one of the WTA’s brightest young stars.