Aryna Sabalenka blames self for US Open final unraveling
Aryna Sabalenka said she only had herself to blame for losing to Coco Gauff in Saturday’s US Open final after an error-riddled performance proved her undoing.
Sabalenka overpowered the American teenager in the first set but Gauff leaned on her brilliant defensive abilities to turn the match around and triumph 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, denying the Belarusian her second Grand Slam of the year.
“She was moving really well and defending really great, better than anybody else. So I always had to play like an extra ball,” said the 25-year-old Sabalenka.
“It’s a combination of everything. But I would say that today was more because of me.”
“Not the whole match, but, like, there was key moments in the second set which the one I lost, I mean, the moments I lost, and those moments helped her to turn around the game,” she added.
“I would say that just because of that, like, key moments in the second set where it was more about me than her, I lost this match.”
Sabalenka hit almost double the number of winners to Gauff but finished with 46 unforced errors — the majority of them on her forehand.
Gauff became just the second woman since 2000 to win the US Open after losing the opening set.
“She was moving just unbelievable today. But then the second set I start probably overthinking, and because of that I start kind of like losing my power,” said Sabalenka.
“I start missing a lot of easy shots.
“I mean, the good news is that it’s me against me. The bad one is that I’m still having these issues playing against myself.”
Australian Open champion Sabalenka took solace in the knowledge she will ascend to world number one on Monday, replacing Iga Swiatek at the top of women’s tennis.
“That’s why I’m not super depressed right now. I’m definitely going to be. I’m definitely going for a drink tonight if I’m allowed to say that,” she said.
“But becoming a world number one, it’s a huge improvement, and achievement, actually. I’m really proud of myself that all those years I have been working so hard helped me to become world number one.”
Sabalenka is the first woman since Serena Williams in 2016 to reach the semifinals or better at all four Grand Slams in the same season.
She hopes that consistency will enable her to remain at the summit for the long haul.
“For me it’s more about end the year as world number, not just like become world number one and then next week you’re second,” said Sabalenka.
“It’s good so that I can say I have been world number one, but I really would like to finish the year as world number one. That’s why I’m, like, still positive, and I’m still motivated.”