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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday September 27, 2019

Aryna Sabalenka

After many trials and tribulations in 2019, Aryna Sabalenka is finding form in a familiar stomping ground.

Photo Source: AP

The inner tiger is back. And with it the devastating game of Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka is taking effect once again.

The 21-year-old has had her share of struggles since winning her third career title at Shenzhen in January (she won just four singles matches at the majors this season), but now that she’s back in China as a newly crowned Grand Slam doubles champion, Sabalenka is ready to put her best foot forward on the singles court again.

After notching her first career win over a reigning World No.1 (Ash Barty) on Friday, she’ll play for the title in Wuhan on Saturday when she meets American Alison Riske.

Sabalenka has now won 28 of her past 34 matches in China.

But the other continents haven’t proven as fruitful.

It’s been a long and eye-opening journey for Sabalenka. After bursting onto the scene and announcing herself as a future star of the game, she lost her way in 2019 and even parted ways with her longtime coach Dmitry Tursunov for a spell. After announcing a split during the US Open, she posted this emotional message on Instagram four days later--the pair are working together again in China.


Found some better pics with D...I just wanna say I don’t know what’s happening right now🤷‍♀️seems like we’re 🤬 day everything is okey another day we both wanto kill each other!But I wanto say that I love him as a coach and trust him more then others!And I can feel that we can grove up together and reach our goals!And I don’t wanna see somebody else by my side.And he is keep saying “I don’t feel that’s you really need me” fuck D I REALLY NEED YOU!but I need that Dmitry who was on the beginning of our relationships”Strong...Smart...Calm And I don’t know 👨 real man...real coach 🎾🥇”.I know some people will think 💭 who?!Dmitry is smart strong and that’s impossible 💭 But I know your real personality and we went trough so many things together...And after we went in the Hospital because something weird happened with Jason I was really afraid that’s something dangerous happened to him I look at you guys and realize “you’re my biggest power and support...I don’t wanna lose you”. Just wanted to say it. I know sounds we are couple and been together for 30 years ,but I think relationships between player and coach it’s something similar to this...I don’t know probably he’ll kill me after he read this....before you kill me just wanna to say sorry!👌🤷‍♀️I wrote it at maybe because of that here’s a lot of emotions and lovely 💭

A post shared by Aryna Sabalenka🐅 (@sabalenka_aryna) on

As it turns out, that brief breakup gave Sabalenka a chance to look at things from the other side. She says she tended to blame her problems on her coach and when she spent time alone last week at Zhengzhou she realized a lot of things.

“I just understand that every time I was trying to find excuses, like Dmitry, this is because of you, because of that, that, that,” she told reporters in Wuhan. “Everything was not about tennis. I'm happy that just like few days alone I understand this big thing. Why they didn't send me earlier this year alone to tournament?”

Sabalenka, reunited with Tursunov in Wuhan, is now finding the freedom she seeks in her tennis.

“On the middle of the season I was kind of afraid of missing, afraid of making a stupid mistakes,” she said. “It's actually bring even more mistakes. It's more pressure. Like with every match, the pressure was going up every time. … Right now maybe US Open help me, final in San Jose, something clicked in my mind.”

Sabalenka decided that she needs to find the tiger within. “Well, what am I doing here? I'm the tiger,” she said of her thought process. “I don't need afraid of something, I just need to go for it.”

The experience, and the associated difficulties, are something that Sabalenka wouldn’t trade. She’s happy that the tough times in 2019 have provided her with a chance to evolve.

“I think I was kind of need to go through all this stuff to understand what tennis actually about,” she said. “I'm actually happy to had this experience. It's tough, but it's gave me a lot I think.

“Earlier this season I had this feeling like I want to play, but I don't want to have these tough matches. I wanted to win it easily. I'm really happy that this feeling coming back to me, like this feeling to be interesting to go on the court, interesting to play each point, to fight, just to stay in the tournament, this feeling of like enjoying the game.”


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