Tennis: Sabalenka needs to find balance for major success, says Dokic

WTA Tour Finals
FILE PHOTO: Tennis - WTA Tour Finals - Panamerican Tennis Center, Guadalajara, Mexico - November 15, 2021 Belarus' Aryna Sabalenka reacts during her group stage match against Greece's Maria Sakkari REUTERS/Carlos Perez Gallardo

November 24, 2021

(Reuters) – Aryna Sabalenka has all the weapons to win a Grand Slam but the Belarusian needs to strike a balance between unleashing the power and opting for the safer shot, former world number four Jelena Dokic said.

Sabalenka, 23, has won 10 titles on the WTA Tour and reached consecutive major semi-finals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open this year.

She won 45 matches in 2021, picked up two titles at Abu Dhabi and Madrid and rose to a career-high ranking of second.

“I think she’s got the quality to do it, I think her game is massive,” Dokic, who retired from playing in 2014, told the Australian Open website https://ausopen.com. “You have to have a weapon to win a Grand Slam, and she’s got quite a few of them.

“But I think for her it’s about balance. It’s about, at times, pulling back from what her natural instinct is, and harnessing those weapons in the right way. Even taking 20% off her groundstrokes, she would still hit massive shots.”

Before this year’s Wimbledon Sabalenka had never made it past the fourth round at a Grand Slam, prompting some to raise questions about her temperament.

Dokic said Sabalenka had a tendency to resort to power when under pressure, which contributes to her error count.

That appeared to be the case at the U.S. Open, where she double faulted twice while serving at 4-5 in the last set of her semi-final against Leylah Fernandez.

Sabalenka would later send a forehand long for another unforced error to hand the Canadian victory.

“I’m not saying that she shouldn’t be aggressive, but you just don’t need to take the unnecessary risk,” said Australian Dokic, who made the last four at Wimbledon in 2000.

“If she can learn one thing from this year, that would be it. In those big moments, the worst thing you can do is hit 10 double faults, and hit 20 unforced errors, in a third set.”

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Peter Rutherford)