‘Tough’ to face ‘best friend’ Badosa – Sabalenka

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Image caption: Aryna Sabalenka (right) has made at least the semi-finals at the past six Grand Slams

Aryna Sabalenka says it will be “tough” to face “best friend” Paula Badosa when they go head-to-head for a place in the French Open fourth round on Saturday.
Australian Open champion Sabalenka, 26, has been in imperious form so far at Roland Garros, losing just seven games across two commanding straight-set wins.
The pair play second on Court Philippe Chatrier.

“She’s my favourite,” world number two Sabalenka said of Badosa.
“I love her so much. I love to see her play, and she’s really a great fighter, so it’s always great matches.
“It’s always tough to play your best friend on tour, but we know how to manage that, we know how to separate court and life.
“It’s always a great battle. I always enjoy playing against her.”
Spaniard Badosa, a former quarter-finalist, has twice come back from a set down to reach the third round in Paris.
Having ended British number one Katie Boulter’s hopes, Badosa defeated Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva on Thursday and said she was looking forward to the challenge against Sabalenka, who has won their past four meetings.
“She has a big personality, she’s a good girl, always bringing good energy, even on court,” said 26-year-old Badosa, who is currently ranked 139th.
“I think it’s going to be fun. Of course, sharing the court with her after all these results she’s doing and all this is a pleasure for me.”
Elsewhere in the women’s singles draw, fourth seed Elena Rybakina and Belgium’s Elise Mertens meet in the opening match on Philippe Chatrier.
Kazakhstan’s Rybakina, who lifted the Wimbledon title in 2022, has only gone beyond the third round of the French Open once previously.
On Court Suzanne Lenglen, American 14th seed Madison Keys takes on compatriot Emma Navarro for a place in round four.
Chinese seventh seed Zheng Qinwen faces Russian Elina Avanesyan in the opener on Court Simonne Mathieu.
Zheng was a beaten finalist at the Australian Open in January but is yet to go beyond the fourth round at Roland Garros.
Djokovic’s mentality ‘is out of this planet’
Image caption: Novak Djokovic has won the French Open on three occasions
Defending champion Novak Djokovic is also back in action on day seven when he faces Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti for a place in round four.
Djokovic has endured a tough first half of 2024, failing to reach a final while his spot at the top of the world rankings is under growing pressure from world number two Jannik Sinner, who booked his place in the fourth round on Friday.
The Serb’s pursuit of a record 25th Grand Slam title continues in the night session on Philippe Chatrier, following straight-set victories against France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena.
Speaking on Friday after beating Donna Vekic, Olga Danilovic, a compatriot of Djokovic, hailed the 37-year-old’s abilities.
“I don’t know if we actually appreciate that he’s the best player in the world by far,” Danilovic said.
“He’s a very humble and nice guy, especially that he’s number one in the world and he’s, for me, the greatest of all time.
“The mentality he has, we are all seeking to have that. It’s just something that is out of this planet.”
Elsewhere on Saturday, fourth seed Alexander Zverev meets Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor.
A trial over domestic abuse allegations against Zverev began on Friday – the German has denied the claims.
Norwegian seventh seed Casper Ruud is up against Argentina’s Tomas Martin Etcheverry, while Denmark’s Holger Rune takes on Jozef Kovalik of Slovakia.
Salisbury and Ram continue doubles quest
Image caption: Joe Salisbury and Rajeev Ram have won four men’s doubles Grand Slam titles
Britain’s Joe Salisbury and American partner Rajeev Ram started their men’s doubles campaign with a straight-set win on Friday and they return to action on Saturday.
They meet Kazakhstan’s Aleksandr Nedovyesov and Ecuador’s Gonzalo Escobar in round two.
Jamie Murray, Henry Patten, Luke Johnson and Neal Skupski are among the other Britons playing in the men’s doubles on day seven, all with non-British partners, while Salisbury and Heather Watson will team up in the mixed doubles.
Maia Lumsden is the only British player remaining in the women’s doubles and will partner China’s Wang Yafan against Ukraine’s Nadiia Kichenok and Japan’s Miyu Kato.

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