Tennis: No more 'crazy' rivalries as best friends Sabalenka, Badosa meet at French Open

AFP , Thursday 30 May 2024

The dark "intense, crazy" days when the likes of Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova bitterly and publicly aired their grievances are long gone, says Aryna Sabalenka.

Paula Badosa
Spain s Paula Badosa plays a backhand return to Kazakhstan s Yulia Putintseva during their women s singles match on day five of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros Complex in Paris on May 30, 2024. AFP


To illustrate her point, world number two Sabalenka will happily take on best friend Paula Badosa for a place in the last 32 of the French Open on Saturday.

It will be the pair's seventh meeting but first at a Grand Slam.

"It's always tough to play your best friend on tour," said Australian Open champion Sabalenka.

"But we know how to separate court and life. So it's always a great battle. I always enjoy playing against her."

She added: "I would say that right now the top 10 players are all good with each other, and there are no big fights outside of the court.

"It's not like we are best friends, but it's not something crazy, like intense."

Ten years or so ago, such warmth was rare.

Back in 2013, Williams hit out at a top five player she described as "boring".

"She's not going to be invited to the cool parties. And, hey, if she wants to be with the guy with a black heart, go for it."

Williams didn't name Sharapova but the Russian, as well as most other observers, viewed it as a reference to her relationship with Bulgarian tennis player Grigor Dimitrov.

Sharapova hit back at Williams and her relationship with her French coach Patrick Mouratoglou.

Elsewhere, the American once arrived at a press conference wearing a shirt that said "Are you looking at my titles?"

That was a reference to being ranked number two after winning the Australian Open and Wimbledon while Dinara Safina was at number one despite never claiming a major.

At the 2012 Australian Open, meanwhile, Polish player Agnieszka Radwanska criticised Sharapova's infamous grunting on court.

"Isn't she back in Poland already?" came the icy retort from Sharapova after Radwanska's exit.

There will be no similar trash talking ahead of Sabalenka's clash with Badosa.

"She has a big personality, she's a good girl, always bringing good energy, even on court," said Spanish star Badosa.

"I think it's going to be fun. Of course sharing the court with her after all these results she's doing and all this is a pleasure for me."

Should Badosa lose for a fifth successive time against Sabalenka, she'll find support from boyfriend and world number nine Stefanos Tsitsipas, a former runner-up at the French Open.

"I'm really grateful to have someone like him by my side. Also in the next few days, we're going to play mixed doubles, so also sharing the court with him, I think it makes it even more special."

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