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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Friday May 17, 2024

After her gruelling win over Elina Svitolina in the round of 16 at Rome, Aryna Sabalenka wasn’t sure if she’d be able to continue playing in Rome due to an issue with her lower back. A few days later, the World No.2 is back in another big final, and getting ready to square off with Iga Swiatek for the crown.

Tennis Express

Her ability to overcome big obstacles this spring is a testament to the mental and physical toughness of Sabalenka.

She says her back – at least for the moment – is no longer an issue.

“I was considering retiring from the tournament,” Sabalenka said on Thursday after her win over Danielle Collins pushed her record on the clay in 2024 to 11-2, and 25-5 since the start of 2023. “Lucky me, I had an extra day. I was doing a lot of recovery. I'm still doing lots of exercise, lots of treatments, always taking care of my lower back. It's getting better. So I guess we're on the right way.

“I don't know. I'm doing everything myself to recover as fast as I can and to be ready for the Paris. Right now I'm feeling great. I'm not in pain during the matches.”

Asked how she felt about facing Swiatek again after she squandered three championship points and fell to the World No.1 the Madrid final on May 5, Sabalenka said she’ll be more assertive if she gets into the same position again.

“Definitely if I'm going to get to the point when I'm going to stay there with the match point, I'm going to go a little bit more aggressive,” she said. “I'll just go. I'll trust myself and go for shots instead of trying to keep in the point, just keep the ball back in. Instead of playing safe, I would just go for it.”

Sabalenka has won three of ten previous meetings with Swiatek, and one of the pair’s five meetings on clay.

Swiatek is a two-time champion at Rome, and will go in as the heavy favorite, given that Rome’s slower conditions suit her better than the faster court in Madrid, which is played at altitude (2130 feet above sea level). But Sabalenka hopes to prove that she can compete with Swiatek on any type of clay.

“You always look for new things,” she told reporters. “You always try to improve lots of stuff, especially after those kinds of matches like in Madrid. You always try and find some stuff to improve where you can get better so next time you'll be able to finish the match.

“After Madrid we worked a lot on a couple of things. We'll see. We'll see on Saturday if it's going to help me or not and we'll move from there – I really have strong belief that I can get that win.”