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Tennis greats rate Sabalenka the one to beat, as world No.1 in for ‘challenging’ year

Part of the reason for that is her improved composure on court, something Sabalenka herself has discussed this summer.

“She’s calmer, and you can really see that she’s not panicking,” Radwanska said. “Sometimes, you could see she was getting frustrated and a couple of points [balls] were going to the stands, but now she’s controlling her emotions, staying really calm and playing shot-by-shot and point-by-point.

“That is helping her, especially with her temper. With the power she has, she is, for sure, dangerous.”

Donna Vekic downed Linda Fruhvirtova in the fourth round.Credit:AP

Hantuchova and Radwanska are also aligned on their opinion that world No.1 Iga Swiatek, who exited the Australian Open in straight sets to Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, will find it “challenging” to match her dominant 2022 campaign.

Swiatek claimed the WTA Tour’s top ranking when Australia’s Ash Barty retired, and went on to post a 67-9 win-loss record, including a 37-match winning streak between February and July, and win the French and US Open titles.

“I don’t think she can back that up,” Hantuchova said. “Players study and coaches talk, so they are going to try to figure out how to play against her, so, of course, it’s always much harder to do it the second year. If she can win half of that; I think she’ll be happy.”

Hantuchova said the slicker Melbourne Park surface did not suit Swiatek as much as what the slower, higher-bouncing hardcourts in Indian Wells and Miami would, while Radwanska expected her to thrive during the claycourt swing.

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“It’s going to be a challenging year for her, defending pretty much everything after an incredible season last year, and it’s not easy when you’re No.1 and everybody wants to beat you,” Radwanska said.

“But, I think even losing here in the fourth round, she still can play a great season and especially on the claycourts, on her surface, and, of course, tennis is a sport that has ups and downs.

“Nobody is a machine, and sometimes you just don’t have your day and cannot play to your 100 per cent … I think it’s another experience for Iga, with that pressure, and we’ll see how it’s going to go.”

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