Sign up to our free sport newsletter for all the latest news on everything from cycling to boxing
Sign up to our free sport email for all the latest news
Aryna Sabalenka has the chance to dethrone Iga Swiatek and claim the world number one ranking for the first time at the US Open and the big-hitting Belarusian will relish a return to New York’s hardcourts.
Sabalenka captured a maiden major at the Australian Open in January after a title run in Adelaide and continued to flourish during the US hardcourt swing by reaching the Indian Wells final and the Miami Open quarter-finals.
Having added accuracy to her thundering serve after a stint with a biomechanics trainer and being mentally tougher despite dropping her sports psychologist during pre-season, Sabalenka has notched up a 17-2 Grand Slam record this season.
“It’s definitely one of the best years so far. I cannot complain about my results this year, to be honest,” Sabalenka told reporters shortly after her Wimbledon semi-final loss to Tunisian Ons Jabeur last month.
“The further you go, the more you want… What do I expect at the US Open? Well just to do better. If I get to the semis, just do better than I did in the last semis.”
Sabalenka returns to Flushing Meadows knowing a title on her preferred surface can help her grab the top ranking from Swiatek after she narrowly missed the opportunity to do so at the All England Club, with the Pole losing in the quarter-finals.
The world number two has been knocking on the door at the US Open well before her stellar 2023 campaign began, as she reached her second straight semi-final at New York last year.
But Sabalenka, who along with Swiatek and 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina has heralded the emergence of a women’s “Big Three” this year thanks to their dominance, has had mixed fortunes in her preparation for the year’s final Grand Slam.
The 25-year-old overcame a third-round defeat by Liudmila Samsonova at the Canadian Open to make the Cincinnati Open semi-finals, where she lost in three sets to Czech Karolina Muchova – her conqueror in the last four of the French Open.
“For me, it’s more about how you finish the year than during the year you’re first, second, you just go back and forth,” said Sabalenka, who was beaten by eventual champion Swiatek in New York last year.
“I’ll keep pushing myself and do everything I can to finish this year as the world number one.”