Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus with the 2024 Australian Open winner’s trophy at Carlton Gardens in Melbourne on January 28, 2024, following her victory over Zheng Qinwen of China in the women's singles final. It was Sabalenka’s second Australian Open triumph in a row. Image Credit: AFP

Aryna Sabalenka always wears a radiant smile. The smile grew broader last month as the Belarusian wrapped her arms around the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup. That was her second Australian Open triumph, raising her prize money earnings to over $23.66 million.

Born in Minsk, the 25-year-old is a popular player on the women’s tour. Her beaming face and charming demeanour are a massive hit with the crowds. World number two in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings, Sabalenka held the top spot last year before surrendering it to Iga Swiatek of Poland.

She wouldn’t mind it. The second grand slam materialised soon, just after Sabalenka’s participation in the World Tennis League in December. Gulf News caught up with her in Abu Dhabi.

Sabalenka reveals her daily routine

Tennis is life for Sabalenka, the daughter of Yulia and the late ice hockey player Sergey. A professional since 2015, she has lived her passion in WTA tournaments, travelling around the world, playing and training. That means many hours sweating it out in the gyms to work on her fitness and the practice courts to finetune her laser groundstrokes and an inconsistent serve.

Focus on face care

Between the regular training sessions with coach Anton Dubrov and WTA tournaments, Sabalenka always sets aside time for self-love. She’s one of the striking beauties on the tour. Fiercely proud of her looks, the Belarusian works at it regularly.

“When I wake up around 8.30 (in the morning), I start taking care of my face first. Skin care, it is. I’m getting older, so I need to take care of my face,” Sabalenka said of her morning routine.

She is aware of her good looks and regularly posts pictures on social media, where she has a large following: 1.5 million on Instagram, 122,000 on X (former Twitter) and 100,000 on Facebook. One Instagram follower asked her if her lips were natural or if she had undergone any cosmetic procedure. Sabalenka reassured the fan that her lips were natural. “Natural Beauty Only,” she posted in reply.

Tennis star’s food favourites

After her beauty regimen, Sabalenka goes for a sumptuous breakfast. “I enjoy my breakfast the most; that’s the best time of the day for me,” the 25-year-old, a self-confessed foodie, told Gulf News. “Italian and Japanese are my favourites,” she added.

After a leisurely breakfast, Sabalenka heads to the courts or the gym. “I go for my tennis practice or do some fitness. Then I will have my lunch and rest. If I have matches in the evening, I will play that or go for another hit, then recovery and dinner,” the six-foot multiple Grand Slam winner said.

Nicknamed The Warrior Princess for her fearless, heavy-hitting game, Sabalenka is a tiger on the court. The long-limbed Belarusian sports a tattoo of a snarling tiger on her left forearm, which reflects her aggressive playing style. She chases balls down the flanks, letting loose powerful groundstrokes and big grunts to go with it. Misses are followed by self-admonishments and screams as she lives every point.

How Sabalenka unwinds

Sometimes it feels as if Sabalenka is high-strung. But she also has a routine to unwind, ending the day by watching movies and reading before hitting the bed around midnight. “I like to read, but not really often, as I will be too lazy at the end of the day,” Sabalenka said. The WTA profile lists The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas as her favourite book.

The daily routine has worked well for Sabalenka as she reached the semifinals of all four grand slams last year, becoming the first woman since Serena Williams in 2016 to achieve the feat. She became the world number one for the first time in her career by the end of the year, displacing Swiatek, who reclaimed it. But Sabalenka isn’t unduly worried about the ranking and is more keen to win Grand Slam titles.

Sabalenka facts
Image Credit: AFP & Gulf News

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“Honestly, it doesn’t really matter if you’re No 1 or No 10. You’re still there on the court fighting for it. You still have to bring your best tennis on the court. After my career, I can probably say that yeah, I was world No. 1; it just sounds cool,” Sabalenka said.

The first Grand Slam title of the year is a fillip, but more challenges lie ahead. “There are lots of goals. It’s the Olympics year. It was a pretty good year in 2023, and I can do better than that in 2024,” Sabalenka said in Melbourne after dominating the final against Zheng Qinwen of China.

“I just wanted to show that I’m able to be consistent, and I’m able to win another one. So compared to last year, it’s a completely different me…The first one is always special because I feel like it’s more emotional. For the second time, it’s just such a relief,” Sabalenka said after winning the trophy without dropping a set.

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup following her win over Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in the women’s singles final at the Australian Open in Melbourne, on January 29, 2023. The pink blouse and skirt by Australian label Zimmermann was sold out online, soon after the pictures were published. Image Credit: AAP

The Sabalenka fashion effect

A big fashion enthusiast, she was up for a Vogue fashion shoot barely hours after partying late following her second grand slam win. For the Australian Open post-win shoot that followed at Melbourne’s Carlton Gardens, Sabalenka chose a cream-tinted white dress with a fringed base, and a pair of slingback, open-toed low heels.

Last year Sabalenka had turned heads with a pink blouse and skirt by Zimmermann (Australian luxury fashion label) and royal blue Manolo Blahnik Hangisi pumps. According to Herald Sun, the dress was soon sold out online. The Sabalenka effect!

The new Australian Open champion will soon return to the WTA Tour, looking to add to her 14 singles titles. Sabalenka will be in the UAE in a few weeks, searching for her first Dubai Duty Free title. Watch out for the fearsome forehand and the big smile.