Crouching ‘tiger’ Aryna Sabalenka on the prowl at Australian Open

Fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka marched into the final 16 of the Australian Open on Saturday after which declared she must “stay low like a tiger” to beat in-form Belinda Bencic.

The Belarusian mauled Thirty second-ranked Belgian Elise Mertens 6-2, 6-3 on Margaret Court docket Area to burgeon her standing as a favorite for the primary Grand Slam of the 12 months.

Bencic, of Switzerland, was simply as dominant in her 6-2, 7-5 victory over Italy’s Camila Giorgi on Rod Laver Area.

Sabalenka described how she would attempt to deal with hard-hitting Bencic and her massive serve.

“I feel like I have to stay really aggressive in the first few shots and then the slower ball or shorter ball will come,” Sabalenka informed reporters at Melbourne Park.

“It’s all about fast feet on the first few shots. I have to be like a tiger, ready, stay low and be ready for that.”

Sabalenka wanted simply 74 minutes to beat her former doubles companion Mertens — the pair received 5 titles collectively together with the Australian Open in 2021 — however mentioned it hadn’t been as straightforward because it regarded.

“It’s really tough to play against her, especially. She’s a great player, unbelievable fighter,” mentioned the highly effective Sabalenka, who’s but to win a significant.

“I knew it’s going to be tough. I’m super happy that I was able to stay focused from beginning to the end to win this match because she’s an amazing player.”

Sabalenka, who has admitted to affected by big-match jitters prior to now, mentioned she needed to keep targeted as expectation grows that she may win a maiden Grand Slam title in Melbourne.

“Before, in the second week, I remember I was getting nervous. I was overthinking, overdreaming,” she admitted.

“I was too emotional on court. I really believe if I’m going to stay the same calm mindset on court, I really believe that I can get it.”

Sabalenka and Olympic champion Bencic are each on a roll this 12 months in Australia.

They every received titles in Adelaide earlier this month, each are but to drop a set in Melbourne and each at the moment are on seven-match unbeaten runs.

One thing must give once they conflict on Monday for a spot within the quarter-finals.

“Sabalenka is a very aggressive player, has a lot of power,” mentioned Bencic, who’s aiming to develop into solely the second Swiss lady to win the Australian Open after Martina Hingis, the 1997, 1998 and 1999 champion.

Bencic, who final week returned to the world’s high 10 for the primary time since 2021, has Sabalenka’s former coach Dmitry Tursunov in her nook for the fourth-round encounter.

“Dmitry was her coach before, so he can help me a lot. I hope so,” mentioned Bencic.

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