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Jun 1, 2024 1:01 pm

Aryna Sabalenka fends off best friend, advances at French Open

Aryna Sabalenka

Second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka kept her emotions in check and defeated her best friend and doubles partner to advance to the fourth round of the French Open.

Sabalenka, of Belarus, overcame a tough first set and cruised to a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Spaniard Paula Badosa on Saturday.

“It’s tough to play your best friend. She’s an incredible player coming back after (a back) injury, and I’m pretty sure she’s going to be back on top very soon,” Sabalenka said. “It’s very tough, but we’re good to separate things. On court … I’m trying not to watch the other side, just to focus on myself and bring my best game.”

Sabalenka finished off the fellow 26-year-old in 77 minutes before the two embraced at the net.

“Today was a day when I wasn’t thinking that much,” Sabalenka said. “I was just feeling the game and trusting myself and going for all those shots.”

Sabalenka, a semifinalist at last year’s French Open, will face either 14th-seeded Madison Keys or 22nd-seeded Emma Navarro in the fourth round. Keys and Navarro will square off later on Saturday.

Also Saturday, fourth-seeded Elena Rybakina breezed to a 6-4, 6-2 win over Elise Mertens of Belgium in 67 minutes.

“In the second set, I was playing with a bit more confidence and my serve improved,” Rybakina said.

Rybakina, a Russian-born Kazakh player, will encounter either 15th-seeded Elina Svitolina of Ukraine or Ana Bogdan of Romania. Svitolina and Bogdan were set to face each other on Saturday.

Also, Varvara Gracheva posted a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania to become the first French woman since 2020 to reach the fourth round.

–Field Level Media

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