Aryna Sabalenka took her time to get going but powered into the second round of the French Open with a comprehensive 6-3 6-2 win over Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk in a feisty clash to begin the year’s second Grand Slam on Sunday.
Sabalenka appeared to be in a spot of bother on serve early on and fell behind 2-3, but the unseeded Kostyuk could not build on her advantage and the Australian Open champion struck back immediately with a powerful crosscourt volley on breakpoint.
Second seed Sabalenka wrapped up the first set in style in front of a sparse Court Philippe Chatrier crowd before pouncing in the next with an early break and another to go up 4-1, as Kostyuk wilted under the Paris sun.
The Belarusian raised her level again late in the match to save two breakpoints and close out the victory in 71 minutes.
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Meanwhile, Karolina Muchova credited the extra motivation she has at the Grand Slam level for her fifth win over a top-10 player at the majors after toppling world No 8 Maria Sakkari.
Sakkari was left with a sense of deja vu following the 7-6(5) 7-5 defeat having lost to Muchova at last year’s tournament after describing the 26-year-old Czech as one of the toughest unseeded players anyone could have in the first round.
Muchova, who has beaten the likes of Karolina Pliskova and Ash Barty apart from Sakkari at the Grand Slams, said there was no secret to her success after she returned to action following abdominal and ankle injuries in 2022.
“It’s the biggest tournament and I like to play them as well as – I don’t want to say I’m not focused on other tournaments, but the motivation is bigger at all the four slams,” Muchova, the world number 43, told reporters