Aryna Sabalenka in the final of the 2023 Australian Open, Melbourne
Aryna Sabalenka in the final of the 2023 Australian Open, Melbourne | (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images)

Tennis | Roland Garros 2023 | Sabalenka and Sakkari look to overcome opening round challenges on day one

By Tony Fairbairn

  • Aryna Sabalenka [2] v Marta Kostyuk
  • Hubert Hurkacz [13] v David Goffin
  • Maria Sakkari [8] v Karolina Muchova
PARIS, FRANCE – Aryna Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari look to overcome opening round scares on day one at Roland Garros.

 

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Aryna Sabalenka [2] v Marta Kostyuk H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Aryna Sabalenka [2] v Marta Kostyuk H2H: Sabalenka leads 1-0
Roland Garros 2023 Paris, France
Clay (O) Prize Money: €69,000
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Aryna Sabalenka has gone from Grand Slam pretender to Grand Slam contender in 2023 as she continues her consistent start to the season. The run to her first Grand Slam title was anything but smooth as she claimed a career defining victory in Melbourne. However that seems to have given Sabalenka confidence that anything is possible with the world number two continuing to build confidence and momentum on multiple surfaces. Now after winning Madrid, Sabalenka is looking to improve her horrific record in Paris and contend for a maiden Roland Garros crown.

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First of all, Sabalenka will have to get past fierce and powerful Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk who is made for the big stages. Despite her talent and potential, Kostyuk would have loved to have done better over this clay court season with momentum seemingly on her side after a run to the title in Austin. However Kostyuk is still only 20 years old and will know that it only takes one big result or tournament to swing the momentum back in her favour. Now the Ukrainian will be hoping her big game will catch Sabalenka off-guard as she looks for one of the best wins of her career.

Sabalenka will look to set the tempo of the match with her powerful serve and will look to use her forehand to effectively construct patterns of play. Meanwhile Kostyuk will look to be smart with her returning and will use depth to create shorter balls for her to hit winners in her striking zone. This will be a highly competitive match with both players looking to power past each other’s defensive skills with Kostyuk looking to catch Sabalenka cold in the early round. However Sabalenka’s mental resilience should see her into the second round even if it does go the distance.

Prediction: Sabalenka in three sets.

 

Hubert Hurkacz [13] v David Goffin H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Hubert Hurkacz [13] v David Goffin H2H: Tied at 1-1
Roland Garros 2023 Paris, France
Clay (O) Prize Money: €69,000
First on Court Simonne-Mathieu (10:00 BST) Discovery+ Add-on via Amazon Prime      Sign up for 30 day free trial of Prime Video and a 7 day free trial of Discovery+ Player

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Hubert Hurkacz hasn’t had the best clay court season with the Pole struggling to adapt to arguably his worst surface. After a promising start to the season, Hurkacz has struggled for consistency and will hope to gain some of the momentum back in Paris ahead of the grass court season. It’s the return of Hurkacz that has let him down in recent weeks and will now look to improve that as well as his overall baseline game at Roland Garros.

Next for Hurkacz is David Goffin who is the perfect opponent for Hurkacz to try some new things on return. Goffin hasn’t had the most confident of clay court swings but has regained some confidence in the last few weeks. The Belgian can beat any player on clay on his day and will desperately look for a deep run in Paris to cement himself back into the world’s top 100. The Belgian will look to use his backhand to construct some effective patterns of play as he looks to knock out another seed at a Grand Slam.

Hurkacz will look to be consistent on serve and will look to be aggressive when the opportunity arises to test Goffin’s defensive skillset. Meanwhile the Belgian will look to use his variety to neutralise the power of Hurkacz and effectively counter-attack the Pole’s aggressive game by using angles. This could be a grinding long match with both players looking to regain momentum with Goffin’s recent form giving him the edge in this contest.

Prediction: Goffin in five sets.

 

 

Maria Sakkari [8] v Karolina Muchova H2H & Match Fundamentals

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Maria Sakkari [8] v Karolina Muchova H2H: Muchova leads 2-1
Roland Garros 2023 Paris, France
Clay (O) Prize Money: €69,000
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Maria Sakkari has had a solid 2023 season having reached two WTA 1000 semi-finals including another strong performance in Madrid. However when it comes to the latter stages of tournaments, Sakkari has often lacked the mental and clinical edge to be a champion. It’s that lack of ruthlessness that Sakkari will be hoping to build over the next two weeks as she looks to make a big run at her favourite Grand Slam event. The question is whether Sakkari has the mentality and tactical awareness to implement this over seven matches.

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That will be put to the test early when she takes on crafty Czech Republican Karolina Muchova. Muchova has struggled with fitness problems and consistency over the season but has still managed to produce some big results this season and narrowly missed out on a Roland Garros seeding. A strong performance in Rome puts her in a strong position to make a good run in Paris and with no fear in her game, anything can happen for the craft and awkward Czech Republican.

Sakkari will look to use her power from the baseline to open up the space on the court and make this a physical match-up. Meanwhile Muchova will use her court craft and variety to disrupt Sakkari’s rhythm and frustrate the eighth seed. This will be an interesting tactical battle but Sakkari’s consistent conditioning should make her slight favourite heading into this fascinating opening round contest.

Prediction: Sakkari in three sets.

 

 

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