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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Sometimes, a heart-felt hug from a good friend can be a life preserver for a player in pain.

Close friends Paula Badosa and Aryna Sabalenka have shared success together and leaned on each other during tough times.

More: Aryna Sabalenka's Boyfriend, Konstantin Koltsov Has Died at 42

When they face off in the Miami Open second round, it will likely be the most emotional encounter between the pair.

The match will be Sabalenka's first since her boyfriend, Konstantin Koltsov, died at age 42 by "apparent suicide" early Monday morning, the Miami-Dade Police said.

World No. 2 Sabalenka is still in the Miami Open draw and scheduled to play Badosa, who has been a caring and concerned presence for her friend during a horrific time.

Badosa said her primary concern is Sabalenka's well-being: She doesn't want her friend to suffer.

"She's one of my best friends," Badosa told the media in Miami. "Yesterday I spoke with her a lot of time. This morning the same. So I know what she's going through. I know the entire situation, what is happening.

"That for me is a little bit shocking also to go through that because at the end she's my best friend and I don't want her to suffer. It's a very tough situation."

It's an unprecedented situation as well.

Two good friends, who have had each other's backs for years, now set to face off days after the pain of personal tragedy.

Though the net will divide them for a match, their deep friendship will bond them.

It's another agonizing tragedy for Sabalenka. Five years ago, Sabalenka's beloved father, Sergey, passed away at age 43 in 2019.

In this fifth meeting between the friends, Badosa will be a compassionate competitor. 

"I don't really know what to say. I mean, she's one of my best friends," Badosa said. "Of course, I know what she's going through. Honestly, for me hasn't been easy, too.

"I really don't know what to say, honestly. She's a strong woman. I think she will get the power from somewhere. I hope it's going to be a battle, a good match, and let's see."

Photo credit: Robert Prange/Getty