World number two Aryna Sabalenka targets maiden Grand Slam in 2022

Adelaide, Australia, 3 Jan (AFP): World number two Aryna Sabalenka said on Monday that she will only consider 2022 a successful year if she can break through and win a maiden Grand Slam singles title.

The Belarusian, who has won 10 WTA singles titles, will open her season at this week’s Adelaide International, where she is the second seed behind top-ranked Ashleigh Barty.

She had never gone past the round of 16 in a Slam until last year, when she reached the semi-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open, losing tough three-setters each time.

The powerful 23-year-old said nerves had gotten the better of her on both those occasions, but she was determined to go all the way this year.

“I think those two matches which I lost in the semi-finals was that little step to make this dream come true,” Sabalenka told reporters in Adelaide.

“I think right now I understand I can do it — okay, semi-final, I don’t have to overthink or over-rush, panic.

“Right now I think I’ll not be nervous in the semi-finals again in a Grand Slam.”

Sabalenka said mistakes had cost her a number of important close matches.

“I made a winner or I made unforced errors,” she said, adding she was working on becoming more consistent.

“I just have to focus and try to make less unforced errors than winners. That’s it.

“Usually I win the first set and then I can start missing a lot, trying to overhit the ball, like make more winners.

“Then I start losing in the third set and when my opponent gets this feeling that they can beat me, it’s tough.

“I just have to not try to overhit the ball and just be there from the beginning till the end, don’t give these big opportunities for my opponent.”

Sabalenka has a first round bye at Adelaide and will play Slovenian Kaja Juvan in the second round.