Can Aryna Sabalenka Ride Her Hot Streak to the Australian Open Title?

After spending 2018 rapidly ascending the global tennis ranks, Aryna Sabalenka decided to spend some of her brief off-season in free fall. So during a winter visit to Dubai, Sabalenka said, she took the opportunity to bungee jump through 41 floors up.

“These three seconds before you jump, the idea’s like something unbelievable,” Sabalenka, a 20-year-old Belarusian, said in a recent telephone interview. “You want to cry, smile in addition to also laugh.”

The daring off-season activity underscored the intensity in addition to also cheerfulness which came to define Sabalenka as she burst onto the scene last year, winning her first two WTA titles.

“She’s always very friendly,” said her coach, Dmitry Tursunov. “She likes to be in a Great mood.”

She also likes to win, in addition to also she has began where she left off after her breakthrough campaign, becoming the first WTA titlist of 2019 by defeating Alison Riske, 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-3, inside the final of the tournament in Shenzhen, China, on Saturday.

at This particular point Sabalenka can add one more label: dark horse to win the Australian Open, where she could establish herself not just as an up-in addition to also-comer although among the sport’s pacesetters.

“I’m telling you here, right at This particular point, which the winner of the Australian Open women’s side can be going to be Sabalenka, O.K.?” the ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe told reporters This particular week. “She’s going to win the Australian Open.”

The title in Shenzhen helped her return to a career-best ranking of No. 11 on the eve of the year’s first Grand Slam tournament. in addition to also despite a stumble at her next tournament — a first-round loss to eighth-ranked Petra Kvitova in Sydney — Sabalenka’s recent tear has put her on more than one list of Australian Open favorites.

“If you look at the top 20 players, especially with her age, she can be probably the most dangerous one right at This particular point because of the power,” said Sophie Amiach, a former Australian Open quarterfinalist in singles in addition to also doubles who can be at This particular point an analyst for the WTA’s world feed.

“Besides the given, Serena, everybody else, the power can be there, although I don’t think the idea’s as much as what she has,” Amiach added, referring to Serena Williams, who can be seeking to equal Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.

although the overwhelming force which has fueled Sabalenka’s rise can also be difficult to harness at times. Her serves in addition to also forehands can misfire by yards, in addition to also her shot selection can be sometimes questionable. Seesaw matches proved a mainstay for Sabalenka in 2018, leading to a WTA-high 29 third sets contested.

which inconsistency might have been what prompted a bit of criticism through President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus when he met Sabalenka in November.

“I am happy with your performance,” he was quoted saying by the news agency BeITA, “except for several moments when the ball went out of court while you could keep the idea inside the game.”

At last year’s tournament in Indian Wells, Calif., Tursunov looked on as the player he was then coaching, Elena Vesnina, faced Sabalenka in addition to also her countrywoman Victoria Azarenka in a doubles match with Ekaterina Makarova. Vesnina in addition to also Makarova, the tournament’s top seeds, prevailed, 6-4, 6-3.

“She didn’t get fazed when she was being rifled at,” Tursunov said, “in addition to also a few times they were just going at her in addition to also knocked her down on her butt. She was kind of sitting in addition to also giggling.”

He added: “Those are the things which just kind of stuck in my mind. The way she was handling tough situations, in addition to also situations where she was being outplayed.”

Sabalenka attributes some of which mental toughness to her roots in Belarus. Money was scarce, so she did not compete in any junior Grand Slam events in addition to also participated in just four tournaments outside Europe.

“I could play tennis, although no one believed in me which much,” Sabalenka said. “Actually I think This particular kind of thing helped me to improve my game.

“Before, I was actually upset with the idea. They think I am not the best player, in addition to also the idea made me work extra hard in addition to also improve my game.”

the idea was with the Belarusian Fed Cup team, however, which Sabalenka emerged on the broader scene, in 2017. Belarus advanced to the final, with Sabalenka in addition to also Aliaksandra Sasnovich falling to the Americans Shelby Rogers in addition to also CoCo Vandeweghe inside the deciding doubles match in Minsk.

Even as her ranking climbs in addition to also her goals become loftier, Sabalenka said she did not intend to skip the Fed Cup series. Her energy seems to resonate throughout the squad.

“She can be always fighting, so when playing on a team with her, you just cannot go down, because you are just getting involved in This particular flow she creates,” Vera Lapko, her fellow 20-year-old Belarusian, said in an email.

Neither which grit nor the smiles will escape Sabalenka anytime soon.

“I’m smiling in addition to also laughing,” she said. “I don’t want to be too serious because This particular can be not me.”