Aryna Sabalenka says she drew strength from her father’s memory as she battled back from 3-5 down in the decider against Hsieh Su-Wei in the Adelaide first round on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old Belarusian revealed that her father Sergey passed away during the off-season and that she is honouring him by fighting through her matches.
“It was something unexpected, he was young, he was 43, and I didn’t want to say that but I think people should know,” Sabalenka said after her 5-7, 6-1, 7-5 win against Hsieh.
“I’m just trying to fight because my dad wanted me to be No.1 and I’m doing it for him so that’s what is helping me to be strong right now.
“During the pre-season it was tough to practice mentally. I didn’t think too much actually. I couldn’t leave, because I knew it was a tough situation with my family and I couldn’t leave them but somehow I needed to go. I wasn’t excited about the matches, I just went there because I have to.”
— Adelaide International (@AdelaideTennis) January 14, 2020
The No.6 seed claimed her first victory in three meetings with the wily Hsieh and next faces USA’s Bernarda Pera in the second round.
“She’s a really good player, the trickiest on the tour, I think it’s always tough to play against her,” said Sabalenka of Hsieh on court to Channel Nine.
“I just told myself I’ll just go for it. I tried my best, tried to stay in the match as long as I can. I don’t know somehow I just did three winners off the return, I was lucky I think. Somehow I just turned around this match and I’m really happy with this experience today.”