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Aryna Sabalenka says she will be stronger after French Open loss, media furore

After failing to extend her remarkable week, Haddad Maia left Roland Garros with a smile.

“Our first goal was to go to the third round,” the world No. 14 said.

“We worked very hard, me and my team deserve to be very proud of ourselves, because it’s not easy to be in this stage.

“I think this match and this week will bring me a lot of things to improve, things that we learn to build our game, our mentality.” REUTERS

PARIS – World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka was left to rue missed chances in her French Open semi-final loss to Czech Karolina Muchova on Thursday but said she would come out of the tournament tougher.

The Belarusian, the reigning Australian Open champion, had a far-from-ideal start to the tournament, also facing questions on the sidelines on her country’s support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

She skipped two post-match press conferences as she initially refused to condemn the war before easing media tension a few days later by expressing her opposition to it and to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko.

“I felt bad emotionally after one press conference,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep. But the only thing I can do well in this life is play tennis, so I try to focus on things I could control and I could do.

“So there wasn’t any moment when I don’t want to play tennis.

“I think I’m really exhausted right now. But I think it’s only because I lost this match. It’s been great couple of weeks with some emotional challenges, but I think I get through it. I think I’ll be stronger.”

With the media storm behind her, the 25-year-old went into the semi-final against Muchova knowing that winning the title would put her top of the world rankings for the first time.

She missed a match point on her opponent’s serve at 5-2 in the third set and then her own serve collapsed as the Czech raced through five consecutive games.

“I think after I lost my serve (at 5-3),” she said when asked when the match slipped out of her hands.

“I was serving for the match, so I think after that game she kind of stepped in and started playing a little bit more aggressive. I kind of lost my rhythm. I wasn’t there.

“But I don’t look at this tournament as a negative tournament. I think I did great improvement on the clay court, and it’s my best result here.”

Muchova will contest her first Grand Slam final on Saturday against Polish world No. 1 and two-time French Open champion Iga Swiatek, who beat Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia 6-2, 7-6 (9-7).

The 27-year-old Haddad Maia, who had never advanced past a Slam second round previously, became the first Brazilian woman in 55 years to reach a major semi-final after beating world No. 7 Ons Jabeur in the quarter-finals.