French Open: Sabalenka overcomes ‘best friend’ Badosa to reach fourth round

Aryna Sabalenka continued her quest for a first French Open title by defeating her best friend Paula Badosa to advance to the fourth round.

The Belarusian, who reached the semi-finals last year, secured a 7-5, 6-1 victory against the Spanish former world number two.

The competitive and entertaining first set saw both players demonstrate their power from the baseline, with seven breaks of serve before second seed Sabalenka closed it out. The second set was one-sided as Badosa’s level dropped, and Sabalenka won 10 of the final 11 games. Despite Badosa saving three match points, she eventually put a backhand long on the fourth.

“I just tried to play my best and fight for every point. I know the conditions were tough and the serve wasn’t an advantage,” said Sabalenka, 26, who will next face American 22nd seed Emma Navarro.

Rybakina and Svitolina Advance; Zheng Out

Elena Rybakina, a former Wimbledon champion, reached the fourth round for the second time with a commanding 6-4, 6-2 win over Elise Mertens. The world number four will face Elina Svitolina next, after the Wimbledon semi-finalist defeated Ana Bogdan 7-5, 6-2.

Meanwhile, there was a surprise exit for Australian Open finalist Zheng Qinwen, who lost to world number 70 Elina Avanesyan. Zheng fought back from 5-2 down in the third set to force a tie-break but ultimately fell short. Avanesyan will play 12th seed Jasmine Paolini, who defeated Bianca Andreescu 6-1, 3-6, 6-0.

Gracheva and Andreeva Impress

Home favorite Varvara Gracheva reached the fourth round of a major for the first time with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Irina-Camelia Begu. Gracheva, now representing France, was celebrated with a rendition of the national anthem, La Marseillaise, by the crowd on Court Suzanne Lenglen. She will face Russian teenager Mirra Andreeva, who convincingly defeated American Peyton Stearns 6-2, 6-1.

Sabalenka Reflects on Friendship and Competition

Despite the challenge of playing against her best friend, Sabalenka managed to separate their friendship from the competition. “It’s tough to play your best friend, but we know how to separate things,” Sabalenka said, praising Badosa’s performance and resilience after her injury. “She’s an incredible player coming back after injury. She’ll be back at the top very soon.”

This victory propels Sabalenka further in her bid for a first French Open title, as she continues to demonstrate her power and determination on the clay courts of Roland Garros.

READ MORE: Novak Djokovic triumphs over Lorenzo Musetti in French Open five-set epic

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