MIAMI -- It did not take long for Aryna Sabalenka to find a new goal after breaking through to win her first Grand Slam title. After taking a few days this past January to celebrate the Australian Open championship with her team, Sabalenka trained her focus on a new target: the World No.1 ranking. 

While some players have become unmoored after accomplishing their lifelong dream of winning a major, Sabalenka says having that concrete No.1 target has helped her maintain her momentum and work ethic.

"It was an amazing moment, but time to move on," Sabalenka said. "It's another tournament, it wasn't the only one goal.

"Of course I want to be No.1. Of course I want to win more Grand Slams, which is normal. I think every one of us, everyone wants to do that. Probably that's why it helped me to stay focused and helped me to keep working and just keep doing my best every day."

On Friday night, Sabalenka opened her Miami Open campaign by defeating Shelby Rogers 6-4, 6-3 to advance to the third round. She will face the Czech Republic's Marie Bouzkova next. 

Sabalenka looked well in control of the match after taking the opening set but called a medical timeout for her left leg after being broken in the first game of the second set. Rogers had break points for a 3-0 lead as Sabalenka appeared to struggle with her movement, but the World No.2 steeled herself from 3-1 down to dominate the remainder of the match and win the final five games.

"For now I feel fine. I will try to fix this problem and be ready for the next match," Sabalenka said after the win. "It was definitely a tough match. Super happy that even if I was struggling with my leg a little bit I was able to finish the match in two sets."

Sabalenka is the highest-ranked player in the draw after defending champion Swiatek withdrew ahead of the tournament with a rib injury. As a result, Miami affords Sabalenka a significant opportunity to continue to eat away at Swiatek's 3,235-point lead in the WTA rankings. 

Swiatek is defending over 4,000 points over the next three months, a result of her 2022 streak in which she won Miami, Stuttgart, Rome and Roland Garros as part of a 37-match win streak. In contrast, Sabalenka is defending only 860 points. In fact, Sabalenka was defending just 20 point total across Indian Wells and Miami.

Setting aside the 52-week revolving ranking point system, the Race to the WTA Finals Leaderboard offers a clearer picture of where the players stand after the first two-and-a-half months of the season. With two titles, including the Australian Open and the final in Indian Wells, Sabalenka sits atop the leaderboard with 3,310 points.

Indian Wells champion and Australian Open runner-up Elena Rybakina sits behind her at No.2 with 2,561 points, and Doha champion and Dubai runner-up Swiatek sits at No.3 with 1,810 points. 

As she looks to chase down Swiatek, Sabalenka acknowledged the World No.1 has made her a better player. The two played five times last season, with Swiatek winning the first four meetings before Sabalenka finally struck back at the WTA Finals in November. 

"You always have to keep improving, keep learning, because a lot of young players are coming," Sabalenka said. "For example, Swiatek, she's moving better. So the first matches I played against her, I felt like physically I'm not ready.

"I'm getting tired after a few points and that's not how I'm going to win this match. So we spoke with my fitness coach to improve my fitness more. We start working even more, so I improved that part of my game.

"Every time when someone is beating you, it's pushing you to think about what you have to improve and this is how you keep moving. If someone beat me, I go watch my match. I take some lessons from there. We improve some things and we move on."