Aryna Sabalenka 'addicted to wins' as she turns attention to Dubai Tennis Championships

Australian Open champion takes on Donna Vekic in first tournament since retaining Melbourne title

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Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka has described how she is “addicted to wins” after arriving in the UAE for the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.

The world No 2 successfully defended her title at Melbourne Park last month with a demolition job over Zheng Qinwen in the final as Sabalenka carried over her superb from the previous campaign into the new season's opening Grand Slam.

Sabalenka – who has put together a streak of six consecutive majors in which she has made it to at least the semi-finals – is back in action for the first time since beating Zheng, when she faces Donna Vekic in Round 2 in Dubai on Tuesday.

And the Belarusian admitted she is still “shocked” about being able to retain her title Down Under – but is already focused on achieving more of the same.

“My mindset is to keep doing what I'm doing, keep fighting, keep working. After my career, to look back and think, ‘Whoa, I was able to achieve that. That's crazy’,” Sabalenka said on Sunday.

“I'm not the type of person who is going to win something and stop. Like I said, I'm addicted to wins. I felt like it's just something in my blood and I keep doing, keep working, and hopefully keep winning.

“It's been an amazing time [since winning in Australia]. I was super excited. We celebrate my win – our win. Yeah, we had so much fun. Yeah, I'm still emotional about that. I think it's the best thing you can ever, ever get. But, as I say, it's already in the past and I need to focus on the next one.”

Sabalenka admitted that it was a different feeling regaining the title in January compared to securing what was her first major crown the previous year.

“Last year it was, like, the first Slam, super excited, new feeling. This year, as a defending champion, it's also kind of like a new pressure. You just try to separate yourself from that pressure.

“At the time you win it, you kind of feel so much relief. Oh, thanks. Yeah, it's easier. OK, I did it. Thanks, God. We're ready to go for the next one.”

After struggling to make it past the fourth round in her first 14 Grand Slam appearances, the 25-year-old has undergone a mental transformation on court.

“I guess I was always searching for something which can help me to control myself better,” said Sabalenka.

“After some years working with a psychologist, I just decided to kind of took the responsibility on myself, just to start to take the responsibility and not wait for somebody to help you fix something.

"At the end the only one thing helping me is just myself, just stop expecting people to fix my problems, start fixing my problems by myself. I think that's brought much more confidence and much more control.”

Meanwhile, world No 1 Iga Swiatek arrived in Dubai on a high after completing a hat-trick of wins at the Qatar Open which saw her become the first player to capture a singles title at an event in three successive years since Serena Williams.

Swiatek overcame world No 4 Elena Rybakina to win 7-6, 6-2 to match the achievement of Williams who dominated in Miami from 2013-15.

“It's crazy. Honestly, when I came to Doha, I was thinking a little bit about that,” said Swiatek on her three-peat success. “It got my expectations little bit higher and the pressure little bit higher.

“I'm happy that during the time I played I could focus on the right things and really get the work done. After it happened, it was just surreal and amazing.”

Swiatek is not too concerned about the quick turnaround from Doha to Dubai with the final against Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open winner Rybakina only taking place on Saturday.

Last year, the 22-year-old Pole followed up her Qatar Open title victory with a runner-up showing in the Emirates.

“For sure, it feels like we have to kind of rush it little bit. Last year it was similar. Even though Doha was a smaller tournament, one match less, I was able to manage,” said Swiatek, who faces former US Open champion Sloane Stephens in Round 2 on Tuesday.

“There's no point in professional sports to overthink it or try to see the future because I'm well-prepared physically.

“It also depends what the intensity of the matches will be. In Doha, I would say the final was pretty intense, but the other matches I had under control. It's not like I played three-setters.”

Updated: February 18, 2024, 7:41 PM