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World No.2 Aryna Sabalenka has backed herself for a title tilt at this week’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships, but only if she follows her process of dealing with one match at a time.
Following a maiden Grand Slam win at last month’s Australian Open – a triumph that propelled the Belarusian to her current career-high ranking – a relaxed and confident Sabalenka insisted she has no intention of resting on her laurels in Dubai, or beyond.
In a field where all four current Grand Slam holders are chasing glory, the 24-year-old is determined to use her Melbourne moment as motivation to maintain momentum in her first tournament since becoming a Grand Slam champion.
“I want more,” said the 24-year-old. “I have more motivation to work hard to feel that again. It’s changed something in my mind, but I still have to work hard to prove I’m in the right place. It’s nice to achieve your goals, but you still have to work, nothing has changed there. Now we’re in Dubai, I don’t know if it’s going to be the same. I am doing my best to keep improving and keep winning. It would be really cool to win in Dubai,” she added.
After arriving in Dubai 12 months ago as top seed, Sabalenka suffered the ignominy of a straight-sets loss to 2013 champion Petra Kvitova in the round of 32. Fast forward a year, and with 17 of the world’s Top-20 players in this year’s field at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Sabalenka, seeded two, is conscious of avoiding another early exit.
“The draw is really strong,” she said. “I like this tournament. I like this city. Of course, I want to win this tournament, but I’m not looking at the draw that far ahead. I’m just taking it step by step. Sometimes you look far in the draw, then you lose the first match because you’re already thinking about your semi-final match or whatever. I’m just trying to take it step by step. Each opponent is really tough. I think tennis has improved a lot, if you see No.1 playing against No.30, it doesn’t say anything. Anyone can beat anyone, so I’m just taking it step by step.”
One of the players standing in Sabalenka’s path, albeit on the opposing side of the draw, is France’s World No.5 Caroline Garcia – the tournament’s fourth seed.
“I’m happy to be back in Dubai. It’s a very nice tournament. It’s a big one, big draw, tough matches. I’m really excited to start a WTA 1000 event,” said the 29-year-old, who reached her maiden Grand Slam semi-final at last year’s US Open.
A beaten finalist at the WTA Lyon Open a fortnight ago, her home tournament, Garcia believes she is starting to find some form in the early stages of the 2023 season, despite her current world ranking and fourth-seed placing in Dubai marking her as a major scalp for every opponent she faces on court.
“Playing someone who is top five in the world, you don’t prepare or play the same as when you’re playing another girl in the top 50. When you are top 70 or top 50 and you play against someone top 10, you have nothing to lose. Now it’s a little bit the other way around. I was feeling lighter last year, so it’s definitely something we were working on,” she added.

Grab Your Seats
Tickets for the 31st edition of the Championships are on sale now at dubaidutyfreetennischampionships.com, starting from Dh55. Tickets are also available at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium Box Office between 9am and 9pm daily. Tournament organisers have urged fans to secure their seats through the official platform.

This month’s Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships will start with the 23rd staging of the WTA event, set to feature nine of the world’s top 10 and running from February 19 to 25. The 31st staging of the ATP Tour 500 tournament meanwhile runs from February 26 to March 4.

The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships is owned and organised by Dubai Duty Free and held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.