Aryna Sabalenka overcomes early scare to advance at Roland Garros
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PARIS – Third seed Aryna Sabalenka moved into the second round of the French Open with a 6-4 6-3 victory over Croatian qualifier Ana Konjuh on Court Suzanne-Lenglen on Sunday.
Sabalenka, who is seeking her maiden Grand Slam title, sent out a warning earlier this month when she won the Madrid Open but she started on the back foot when she was broken in the first game and soon found herself 4-2 down in 20 minutes.
However, Sabalenka doubled down and found her bearings before her aggression came to the fore as she created angles to open up the court and capitalise with powerful winners to take a 5-4 lead.
Konjuh, a former junior world number one looking to mount a career comeback after a series of elbow surgeries, went on the defensive and handed the opening set to Sabalenka when she double-faulted on set point.
"In the beginning... I felt like everything is not going well and I didn't really feel my game. So many mistakes," Sabalenka, who finished with 24 winners and 31 unforced errors, told reporters.
"But I'm really happy with the end of the first set, I kind of could find the rhythm. I won the first set and then everything start to be a little bit better."
A re-energised and more focused Sabalenka emerged in the second set and she quickly raced away to take a 3-1 lead with two more breaks of serve as Konjuh faltered with a string of double faults.
Despite saving a match point with a hold of serve, Konjuh bowed out when she found the net on Sabalenka's second match point.
"It was tough match, she's really aggressive," Sabalenka added. "Sometimes it was really tough to play under her pressure."
Sabalenka will play either Fed Cup team mate Aliaksandra Sasnovich or France's Diane Parry in the second round.