NEW YORK, NY, USA - No.26 seed Aryna Sabalenka let out a few staccato sighs after she sat down to face the press after two tough losses on Labor Day at the US Open.
"Sometimes you have a bad day, sometimes it’s a good day," she mused after narrow defeats in singles to Naomi Osaka and doubles against Elise Mertens and Demi Schuurs with Hsieh Su-Wei. "Today wasn’t the best day for me, even in doubles. I wasn’t showing great tennis, and I’m so angry about that. I have to think more about this."
Sabalenka said she was stunned into silence after Osaka, a BNP Paribas Open champion into her first Grand Slam quarterfinal, snapped the eight-match winning streak she took from New Haven and into Flushing Meadows, where she beat the likes of Vera Zvonareva and two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova en route to the second week.
"We had two hours until doubles, and I was so mad that my coach told me, ‘Forget it. Just focus on doubles right now.’ I was thinking how I had chances and I lost them. I was so angry, too angry, and I was just lying back in the chair.
"My physiotherapist was working with me for treatments, but I didn’t have any power to speak or do anything. We haven’t spoken yet. It won’t be an easy talk, but we have to in order for me to improve. It’ll be a tough few days for me for sure."
The Belarusian played indomitable tennis to level the match on Louis Armstrong Stadium, and followed a fearless backhand return to break first in the decider. Two points from a 3-1 lead, the youngster allowed her mind to wander, and the 20-year-old Osaka back into the match.
"I have to learn how to serve in games when I have leads, breaks. I have to stay in each point and not start thinking about something different.
"It wasn’t so much that I was nervous, but I was thinking a lot about the future, and I wasn’t staying in the moment. I think she was more in the moment, trying to play each point, and win each point. This was the key for her. Next time, I’ll learn to stay in the moment in important moments, without thinking about the future or the past."
As the match came to a dramatic finish, Sabalenka thrice found herself down deep holes on serve - including the last game at triple match point. Proud at how she fought in the face of disaster, she hopes to channel that relentlessness into more match success in upcoming appearences in Québec City and Guangzhou.
"I will focus on the positive things. I don’t want to stay in the negative past today or tomorrow, only," she said, caveating with bright eyes. "I want to learn that I will always have chances to fight and come back in every game.
"Before, when I would lose my serve, I would get so mad that I would lose a few games in a row. Now, I think, ‘If you lose your serve, try to stay in the point.’ That happened today; I came back more than I would have in previous years. I still knew that I had chances, and I will learn only this."