Aryna Sabalenka said her double-bagel thrashing of Lesia Tsurenko in the Australian Open third round had its roots in trying to keep pace with Iga Swiatek.
Sabalenka was on red-hot form once again in Melbourne on Friday, swatting aside her shell-shocked opponent in just 52 minutes with a customarily powerful display.
Speaking on court afterwards, Sabalenka said: “Last year Iga won so many sets 6-0, and this is one of the goals – try to get closer to her.
“Actually, I’m just super happy with the level I’m playing so far and hopefully I can just keep going like that, or even better.”
The world No. 2 faced a break point in the very first game of the encounter on Rod Laver Arena, but once she came through that test it was one-way traffic.
The first set was wrapped up with a brutal inside-out forehand as Tsurenko was broken for a third time.
And Sabalenka continued her dominance in the second, hitting 17 winners off the ground to progress to the fourth round.
After securing six bagels in the entirety of 2023, Sabalenka is already up to five by the first month of 2024 as she makes a play to emulate Swiatek and recapture the world No. 1 ranking.
Next up for the Belarusian is Amanda Anisimova, the 22-year-old who has returned to tennis with a bang at this tournament after taking eight months out of the sport for mental health reasons.
Of her upcoming opponent, Sabalenka said: “She’s [an] incredible player, I’m happy to see her back in tennis.
“We played a lot of matches, always tough battles and I’m looking forward for a great fight.”
Anisimova saw off Paula Badosa – returning herself after an injury lay-off – 7-5 6-4 in one of the more engrossing matches of the women’s draw so far, with the American declaring afterwards she had surprised herself with how quickly she has found her form again.
“It’s quite unbelievable after taking some time off, but I’m really feeling good,” Anisimova said.
“The most important thing is I’m enjoying my time out here.
“Taking a step away and just really being at home, just resetting myself, it just gave me a different perspective going into these tournaments and I’m really trying to be present when I am here and enjoy every second.”
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