Aryna Sabalenka wins on return to court after death of her former partner

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Aryna Sabalenka showcased her exceptional resilience as she made a comeback to the tennis court and exhibited unwavering concentration and determination amid a difficult time in her personal life. She triumphed over her close companion Paula Badosa in a 6-4, 6-3 victory, advancing to the third round of the Miami Open on Friday.

On Monday morning, Sabalenka’s former boyfriend, Konstantin Koltsov, died at the age of 42 in Miami with police describing his death as an “apparent suicide”. Sabalenka released a statement on Wednesday saying her “heart is broken” and asking for privacy for both herself and Koltsov’s family.

Sabalenka, the second seed and winner of the Australian Open, chose to stay in the Miami Open instead of pulling out. She returned to the practice court on Tuesday, despite initially planning on withdrawing. The organisers of the tournament made the uncommon choice to give Sabalenka additional time to prepare for her return to the matches. They rescheduled her match for Friday, even though the rest of the players in the bottom half of the draw finished their second round on Thursday.

Rephrased: Sabalenka and Badosa have a strong bond of friendship and following Badosa’s victory over Simona Halep in three sets on Tuesday, during Halep’s comeback from her reduced doping ban, Badosa revealed that she and Sabalenka had a long conversation after Koltsov’s passing. Badosa expressed feeling uneasy about playing against Sabalenka in light of these events.

Due to a delay caused by the rain, Sabalenka and Badosa finally began their match six hours later. Both players wore black attire and Sabalenka also had a black cap covering her face. In the initial games of the match, Sabalenka had difficulty with her second serves, resulting in three double faults out of her first four.

Aryna Sabalenka salutes the crowdView image in fullscreen

However, the 25-year-old gradually grew more comfortable in the intense and competitive match. Badosa, who has been struggling with a recurring back injury this year, played consistently well in the first set, with strong serves and injecting pace into her forehand when the opportunity arose. However, Sabalenka began to apply pressure on Badosa’s service games and took control of the baseline with her powerful groundstrokes. Sabalenka finally secured the first break of the match, taking a 4-3 lead. Despite facing resistance from Badosa, she managed to close out the set with some impressive serving after four set points.

After winning a challenging first set, Sabalenka relaxed and played more confidently in the second, serving impeccably and dominating Badosa with her powerful shots. As they hugged tightly at the net, Badosa brought a smile to Sabalenka’s face while congratulating her. Sabalenka then thanked the audience and swiftly gathered her belongings, choosing not to do the usual post-match interview on the court.

Sabalenka’s next opponent in the third round will be Anhelina Kalinina, the 32nd seed from Ukraine. On Thursday, Kalinina managed to win against a fatigued Caroline Wozniacki in three sets, after saving a match point.

Tara Moore, previously ranked as the top British doubles player, has recently launched a GoFundMe campaign in her efforts to resume her career in professional tennis. This comes after an independent panel determined that Moore was not at fault or negligent when she tested positive for a prohibited substance in 2022.

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No 77, Moore, achieved highest career ranking in 2022 and was temporarily banned during the French Open in May of that year due to testing positive for nandrolone. The case was brought to the independent tribunal in December 2023, 18 months later.

After reviewing the evidence, the tribunal concluded that Moore and Barbara Gatica from Chile, who were jointly tried, had unknowingly eaten tainted meat in Colombia prior to providing their samples. Therefore, they were not found at fault or negligent, and no disciplinary action would be taken against them. However, Moore still faced a 19-month suspension, causing her to drop out of the top 100 and lose her ranking in the Women’s Tennis Association.

Unlike Halep, who has no limit on wildcards due to being a grand slam champion and is expected to receive them for major tournaments, Moore has a challenging journey to regain her previous standing after the suspension. She stated that the funds raised through GoFundMe will be used for training, expenses, and ongoing legal costs.


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