Aryna Sabalenka is hoping to close the gap on world No. 1 Iga Swiatek with success at the Miami Open. The Belarusian powered through to the third round with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Shelby Rogers on Friday. And the 24-year-old admits she has her eye on top spot in the WTA rankings. With Swiatek forced to pull out of the tournament with injury, Sabalenka is the highest-ranked player in the draw.
Aryna Sabalenka admits the success of rival Iga Swiatek has made her a better player as the Australia Open champion chases down the world No. 1 spot.
The Belarusian progressed to the third round of the Miami Open with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Shelby Rogers on Friday and will now meet Marie Bouzkova next.
With champion Swiatek forced to pull out of the tournament with a rib injury, Sabalenka is the highest-ranked player in the draw and therefore success in Miami would allow her to close the Pole’s 3,235-point lead in the WTA rankings.
“Of course I want to be No. 1,” she said, per wtatennis.com.
She added: “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.”
Sabalenka won the most recent meeting with Swiatek when she got the better of her rival at the WTA Finals in November, emerging victorious after a pulsating three-set match to reach the final.
Swiatek had won all four previous matches against the 24-year-old, and Sabalenka admits she has learnt a lot from those encounters.
“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.”
On Friday night, Sabalenka had a problem with her left leg and called for a medical timeout, as Rogers raced into a 3-0 lead in the second set before the Belarusian recovered to dominate the remainder of the match and win the final five games.
“For now I feel fine,” Sabalenka said. “I will try to fix this problem and be ready for the next match. 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.”