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By Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Women's tennis has surface queens, but court category isn't decisive when they face off says Aryna Sabalenka.

Two-time Australian Open champion Sabalenka said she regards world No. 1 Iga Swiatek as best on clay and sees 2022 Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina as a premier grass-court player, but believes Grand Slam champions can beat each other on their preferred surface.

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"I mean, obviously Iga is much better on clay than me, for example," Sabalenka told the media in Rome. "I would say Elena is better on grass. I'm maybe a little bit better on hard court.

"At the same time I cannot say that it's all about the surface. I mean, as the time shows, I can beat them on clay, on hard, on grass. It's not about the surface, I would say. It's about honestly in each match couple of key moments where, like, probably she played better."

Pointing to the fact she held three championship points in Saturday's Madrid final before bowing to Swiatek, 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(7) in a pulsating three hour, 11-minute Mutua Madrid Open final, Sabalenka said it often comes down to managing the critical moments.

"For example, last match with Iga, I wouldn't say on those important points I did something wrong, it's just I was doing the right thing, but she was doing it better little bit," said Sabalenka, who celebrated her 26th birthday on Cinco de Mayo. "It's just about little things.

"Yeah, it's not about the surface. It's a process. You learn from that little mistakes you made during the match, then you go and work on them, you try better next time. It's just little improvements, like little percentage better every day. Hope for the better result."

The 2023 US Open finalist disputes the idea of the WTA Big 4—Swiatek, Sabalenka, Rybakina and US Open champion Coco Gauff—asserting in women's tennis "anybody can beat anybody."

Though she doesn't see a new Big 3 emerging, Sabalenka said she's driven to remain in the Top 3 in the rankings.

"Now we have some rivals, meaning like me, Iga and Elena. We're doing maybe more consistent, play more consistently past years," Sabalenka said. "Maybe last year and this year so far. I would say that in tennis, anybody can beat anybody.

"If you would start thinking like, My level is there, they're somewhere there - how to say - you're not respect them, you underestimate them, and you're kind of like losing it because you're not - how to say - focusing well enough for them.

"It's all about being focused, do your thing, not thinking about all these ranking situations, the level is higher than them. I'm focusing on myself and making sure that every time I'm on the court I bring my best tennis and hope that I'll still be there in that top three players, yeah."

Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty