Australian Open: Second seed Aryna Sabalenka leaning on advice from Mark Philippoussis
Serving advice from former Australian star Mark Philippoussis was ringing in the ears of second seed Aryna Sabalenka in an opening round Australian Open comeback which sent a local hope packing.
Sabalenka had an impromptu coaching session from Philippoussis in Adelaide last week, where he was commentating, and those lessons helped the second seed reduce her double fault count to 12 in a battling 5-7 6-3 6-2 win over Australian Storm Sanders on Tuesday.
The Belarusian had lost her opening matches in both Adelaide tournaments before heading to Melbourne and had racked up 74 double faults in her previous four matches, even resorting to underarm deliveries.
But she harnessed the advice of Philippoussis to push through and keep her Australian Open hopes, which could include a final showdown with Ash Barty, alive.
“Well, after the first matches of the season I was really worried and I spoke with Mark,” Sabalenka said.
“And, yeah, he was in Adelaide and after my second match he just wrote me, like, Well, girl, just stop thinking a lot on your serve. If you have some time today, because I was leaving on the next day, and he said, like, if you have some time today after my last match, because he was commentating there, after my last match we can go out on the court, I can help you anyhow.
“And, yeah, I think at 9 p.m. or 8 p.m. we went on court and we served a lot and he was giving, he gave me some tips about what should I focus on during the game when I‘m like struggling with my serve. And my coach was there. They had a nice conversation. We had nice conversation.
“I really, I’m really thankful to him for this help because that’s what helped me today on match to just survive there.”
Sabalenka, the world number two who could potentially face off with Australian world number one Bartu in the final at Melbourne Park, said Philippoussis had helped her before after she approached him for some serving advice.
“I remember a few years ago at Wimbledon I was struggling with my serve and I saw him serving and I loved the way he was serving when he was playing and I just went to him and asking like, Hey, I have some troubles with my serve. Can you help me, please? And he helped me and, yeah, my serve started working again.
“Yeah, I was really thankful to him. And, yeah, I think that‘s why he wrote me because he said, I felt so bad when you were serving like double fault and double fault and I felt so bad. And he said, I felt like I have to text you and see what can I do for you.
“And, yeah. So, yeah, we went out on court and we served for, it wasn‘t like that much serves, but we spoke a lot, maybe a few hours, and, yeah.
“But I was really worried going here about my serve, like, what‘s going to happen on the match. But I was just, like I tried to stay positive during this practice week and I was trying to stay positive on court today. ”
Sabalenka, who reached the fourth round of the Australian Open in 2021, will face China‘s Wang Xinyu next.
Originally published as Australian Open: Second seed Aryna Sabalenka leaning on advice from Mark Philippoussis
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