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Sabalenka up against 'best friend' Badosa for last-16 spot in Paris

The pair will be meeting for the seventh time in their careers and the third time this year, with two-times Australian Open champion Sabalenka having emerged victorious in their last four encounters.
Last Updated : 01 June 2024, 04:10 IST
Last Updated : 01 June 2024, 04:10 IST

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A friendship will briefly be put on hold on Saturday when Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka and Paula Badosa of Spain go head to head in the third round of the French Open.

The pair will be meeting for the seventh time in their careers and the third time this year, with two-times Australian Open champion Sabalenka having emerged victorious in their last four encounters.

"It's always tough to play your friend, your best friend on tour, I would say," Sabalenka said.

"It's always tough, but we know how to manage that. We know how to separate court and life. So it's always a great battle, great fight against her. I always enjoy playing against her."

Sabalenka added that it was easier to maintain a friendship on the modern WTA Tour, saying the circuit had become a more friendly place than it was at times in the past.

Asked about the intense rivalry between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova which took centre stage in the women's game for over a decade, the world number two told reporters: "I would say that right now top-10 players, we are all good with each other.

"There aren't big fights outside of the court. Of course, on the court we are opponents, but off court we can talk, we can have fun. Not like we are best friends, but it's not something crazy, like intense."

For her part, former world number two Badosa, who has fallen out of the WTA's top 100 after a string of injuries, said she was just happy to be back competing against top players like Sabalenka.

"I think it's going to be fun," Badosa told reporters after her second-round comeback win over Yulia Putintseva.

"Sharing the court with her after all these results she's had is a pleasure for me, because this past year hasn't been easy. Playing these kinds of matches, it makes it all worth it."

Fourth seed Elena Rybakina will meet Elise Mertens of Belgium, while former U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu faces 12th-seeded Italian Jasmine Paolini.

In the men's draw, Norway's seventh seed Casper Ruud, runner-up for the last two years, will play Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry, while defending champion Novak Djokovic faces Lorenzo Musetti.

German fourth seed Alexander Zverev will take on Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, while fifth seed Daniil Medvedev faces Tomas Machac, who defeated Djokovic in the semi-finals of the Geneva Open last week.

Asked if Machac's win over world number one Djokovic had added to the Czech's fear factor, Medvedev said: "I don't think I fear anyone, to be honest.

"What you fear is that the guy is going to play everything on the line, and that's when they can beat you. He's playing good at the moment. He's going up the rankings, playing aggressive, hitting the ball well, having good victories."

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Published 01 June 2024, 04:10 IST

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