Aryna Sabalenka - Australian Open 2024

Aryna Sabalenka claims ‘the level was so bad’ after shock Dubai exit

Aryna Sabalenka has lost her first match back since retaining the Australian Open title, and she has suggested that ‘the conditions’ in Dubai do not suit her game style.

Sabalenka was beaten by world No.31 Donna Vekic, 7-6(5) 3-6 0-6, at the WTA 1000 event in the United Arab Emirates yesterday.

The Belarusian was 7-6(5) 2-0 up at one stage, with a single opportunity to go up a double break in the second set.

However, Vekic fought back to win 12 of the next 13 games and continue her impressive record against Sabalenka, as she now leads the head-to-head 6-2.

And Sabalenka has spoken about the conditions not suiting her, “I feel like the conditions here don’t fit me well at all. It’s really tricky for me to compete here in Dubai. A really tricky court for me.

“I would say that the whole match I was leading, I was winning. I won the first set. I was up with a break. I didn’t feel like I was up. The level was so bad today from me.”

Sabalenka is next set to compete at Indian Wells, beginning Wednesday 6th March, where she was runner-up to Elena Rybakina last year.

Inside the baseline…

It was a very uncharacteristic performance from Aryna Sabalenka, who looked a shadow of the player that won 14 consecutive sets at the Australian Open. To go off the boil so much after being up a set and a break is astonishing for any player, let alone the second best ranked player in the world. It would be surprising to see this being anything other than a blip, with Sabalenka seemingly much more suited to the hard courts of Indian Wells.

Aryna Sabalenka and her record in Dubai

Sabalenka suggesting that the courts in Dubai are not suited to her may have something to it, having not surpassed the quarter-final stage at either the WTA 1000 or WTA 500 level of the tournament:

Main draw win-loss record: 8-7 (53%)

2017 (WTA 1000) – Lost in the First round to Kateryna Volodko, 6-4 4-6 3-6

2019 (WTA 1000) – Lost in the Third round to Belinda Bencic, 4-6 6-2 6(7)-7

2020 (WTA 500) – Lost in the Quarter-final to Simona Halep (1), 6-3 2-6 2-6

2021 (WTA 1000) – Lost in the Quarter-final to Garbine Muguruza (9), 6-3 3-6 2-6

2022 (WTA 500) – Lost in the Second Round to Petra Kvitova, 4-6 4-6

2023 (WTA 1000) – Lost in the Quarter-final to Barbora Krejcikova, 6-0 6(2)-7 1-6

2024 (WTA 1000) – Lost in the Second Round to Donna Vekic, 7-6(5) 3-6 0-6

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.