Aryna Sabalenka Stuttgart 2021

‘Aryna Sabalenka is fired up,’ Navratilova talks French Open contenders

Martina Navratilova believes Ash Barty and Iga Swiatek are favourites for the French Open, though also says Aryna Sabalenka has come a long way to be a contender.

The Belarusian has lost just two of her 13 matches on the clay surface so far this year and won the title in Madrid, beating World No 1 Ash Barty in the final.

18-time Grand Slam champion Navratilova believes Sabalenka has discovered how to harness her power, leading to far less unforced errors and more winners ahead of the French Open.

“I think the reason people go for too much is because they don’t have that median shot, that median rally ball that you hit 75-80 percent of the time, just keeping the ball deep – the shot that [Victoria] Azarenka hits most of the time. Sabalenka needed that shot and I think she’s got it now,” said Navratilova.

“Once you have the confidence to do that, then you don’t try to pull the trigger too soon. So she has harnessed her power in that she uses it at better moments.

“For her, the pace was 25 winners and 35 unforced errors. Now she’s flipped that, she’s 35 winners, 25 unforced errors. And she forced a lot of errors as well from the other players because they don’t want to give her anything good to hit.

“She’s come a long way. I really like the way she’s been competing. She used to get down on herself, and now when she does get down, she seems to get more fired up than just whiny.

“Us Slavs have whiny in our DNA. I know I used to get whiny, so I recognise it when I see it.”

Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.