Tennis-Sabalenka getting in the mood for clay in Stuttgart

By Thomson Reuters Apr 16, 2024 | 1:25 AM

(Reuters) – Aryna Sabalenka said her claycourt preparations are in full swing ahead of her Stuttgart opener and the world number two is hoping for plenty of action ahead of the French Open, which begins next month.

The Australian Open champion has endured a difficult time after the apparent suicide of her former boyfriend, Konstantin Koltsov, as she was gearing up to play in the Miami Open last month.

The 25-year-old Belarusian lost in the third round in Florida before switching her attention to clay with her sights on the year’s second Grand Slam in Paris starting on May 26.

Last year’s Roland Garros semi-finalist told reporters she started her clay preparations straight after Miami.

“Stuttgart is a good place to start the clay season,” she added.

“You’re slowly getting into this ‘clay mood’, sliding, playing long rallies. I like to play lots of tournaments before the Grand Slam, so I think it’s a good one to start with.”

Sabalenka, who has finished runner-up in the previous three years at Stuttgart, meets good friend Paula Badosa on Wednesday in a rematch of the pair’s second-round Miami meeting.

Defending champion Iga Swiatek said she too is steadily making the switch to the slower surface, having guided Poland into the Billie Jean King Cup Finals last week.

“I felt today that I can do the transition pretty quickly,” said the top-ranked Swiatek, who will take on Elise Mertens or Tatjana Maria.

“I’m not expecting that I’m going to feel comfortable from my first match because you always need some matches to just gain confidence on any surface, even if you feel comfortable on it.”

(Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)