ADELAIDE, Australia -- Aryna Sabalenka says she's been working on keeping her cool on the court for years but admits those were just words. As the 2023 season begins, it's a new Sabalenka, as evidenced by her resilient and, dare we say "zen," run to the title at the Adelaide International 1.
"I've been working on this part of my game for like four or five years already, but something changed after last season," Sabalenka told WTA Insider after winning her 11th title and first since 2021 Madrid. "I just changed.
"Because before, yes, I was trying to work on it, but every time I was down in the score, I was getting crazy. This time I was like, 'OK, whatever. No matter what, I'm calm. I'm just thinking about what I have to do to come back or to just keep going."
Sabalenka stops Noskova for 11th career title at Adelaide 1
Sabalenka did not lose a set during her run Adelaide title, but that doesn't mean she wasn't tested. She rallied from 5-1 down and saved a bushel of set points to defeat Liudmila Samsonova in the first round.
Sabalenka sweetness 🍭@SabalenkaA | #AdelaideTennis pic.twitter.com/NUlhPg0aWe— wta (@WTA) January 8, 2023
She held her nerve in a tricky match against Marketa Vondrousova. And in the final against the 18-year-old Czech Linda Noskova, Sabalenka was ice cold down the stretch to close it out in straight sets.
Sabalenka joined the WTA Insider Podcast to reflect on her week in Adelaide and her evolution toward a calmer version of herself.
Here's what else Sabalenka had to say after her win.
On taming "The Tiger" and becoming -- gasp! -- "boring"
"Before I was just saying what I heard from my coaches and everyone. I was just saying the right things, but I didn't really believe it. And right now I get older, I get maybe smarter, and it just came naturally. This is what I feel, this is what I have to do. And that's it. I feel like I have to become a little bit boring on court to reach my goals. I'll just keep doing that.
"Tiger is still there. Believe me. Tiger is there and I'm ready for fights.
"Tiger is just like a calm Tiger. When it needs to get out, it's there. When it has to stay calm, he's really listening to me. I feel like it's under control."
Sabalenka focused on improved serve and consistency in 2023
On the pressure of talent and the importance of experience:
"I call it expectations. You see what people are saying, you hear it and you put so much pressure on yourself. You start dreaming. You start getting crazy about things. I feel like it's not really helping.
"I wish I would feel this calmness inside a little bit earlier. It's an easy thing and everyone kept saying that to me, but you just have to live through all that experience to start feeling it.
"Because when you're not feeling it, you're just trying to fake it. Like you're calm, but inside you want to crush everything. It's not going to exist. You just have to be that way, and to be that way you have to go through all these up and downs. You have to go through everything. You have to have that experience behind you to feel it and to be ready to use it, you know?
On how she'll celebrate the win:
"Before I used to be celebrating for a few days after winning a title. Right now, it's just a moment. For a few seconds you feel like, 'Yes, I did it,' and you're super happy and proud and all this stuff.
"But then you're like, 'OK, it's already happened. It's in the past. What's next? There is no way that a young person will be like that.
"You just have to go through all these moments. You have to understand that, yeah you won the title, but it's not a guarantee that you're going to win in the rest of the tournaments.
"I'm super proud with the level with everything, but it's already in the past and I just want to focus on myself, on my game, what else I have to improve what else I have to keep working on. When you get older, everything is becoming a little bit boring, you know?"
#11— Sabalenka Aryna (@SabalenkaA) January 9, 2023
What a great start of the year! Thank you @AdelaideTennis for an amazing week! I enjoyed every moment here😘 pic.twitter.com/IDfpTSNfAQ