Australian Open: Sabalenka dropped psychologist and gave herself the job before run to Melbourne Park final

By Sports Desk January 26, 2023

Aryna Sabalenka made a giant career breakthrough by reaching the Australian Open final, revealing: "I've dropped my psychologist and appointed myself."

One year on from being near the lowest ebb of her career, struggling to hit a serve into court, Sabalenka is a changed player after working on the biomechanics of her game.

Three times a losing grand slam semi-finalist, she got over that hurdle for the first time by beating Magda Linette 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 in Thursday's second semi-final, setting up a title showdown with Elena Rybakina on Saturday.

Hard work has brought about this change in Sabalenka, who was stacking up double-figure match totals of double faults as a matter of course in the early stages of last season.

There was work with a psychologist in the background, too, but Sabalenka feels that has run its course, and that nobody understands her better than herself.

It is a gamble, but it also seems to be paying off handsomely.

The 24-year-old fifth seed said: "To be honest, I decided to stop working with a psychologist. I realised that nobody other than me will help, you know?

"In the pre-season I spoke to my psychologist saying, 'Listen, I feel like I have to deal with that by myself', because every time I'm hoping that someone will fix my problem, it's not fixing my problem.

"I just have to take this responsibility and I just have to deal with that. I'm not working with a psychologist any more. I'm my psychologist."

The experiment is working just fine so far, with Sabalenka having a perfect run through her first 10 matches of the year, picking up an Adelaide International title and powering through the grand slam rounds in Melbourne.

She has yet to drop a set this season, and now a first grand slam singles title is tantalisingly close.

Wimbledon champion Rybakina stands in her way, with Sabalenka disclosing she mostly ignored the grass-court slam last year after Russian and Belarusian players were banned from competing.

"I didn't watch Wimbledon last year. I was feeling really bad about that, and I didn't watch Wimbledon at all," the Belarusian said.

"A little bit the final just because I was working out in the gym. I saw a little bit. It was great tennis."

Sabalenka, who is not known for hiding her emotions, appears to be on a sturdy keel in Australia and said she kept the celebrations low-key after beating Linette because "there is one more match to go".

She has won all three of her past matches against Rybakina, but they all came before the Kazakhstani became a major champion.

It is Rybakina who carries the experience of winning in a slam final into Sunday's trophy match, which can be seen as an advantage.

The psychologist lurking within Sabalenka has delivered impressive results so far, and the on-court focus she has demonstrated suggests the woman from Minsk is unlikely to lose any mental battle.

"To be honest, I think I'm not going to do something extra," Sabalenka said. "I think it's okay to feel a little bit nervous. It's a big tournament, a big final. If you're going to start trying to do something about that, it's going to become bigger, you know?

"I'll just leave it like that. It's okay to feel nervous. She's playing great tennis, serving well. I just have to be there and have to work for it and put her under pressure. Yeah, that's it."

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