By Ros Satar, in Melbourne
- Katie Boulter v Aryna Sabalenka 
- First Meeting
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – The continuing rise of the engaging Aryna Sabalenka will prove to be a stern test for British No. 2 Katie Boulter.
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Katie Boulter v Aryna Sabalenka  | First Meeting
There are few things that the British No. 2 Katie Boulter will have learned this week. No. 1 – don’t celebrate at seven points in a deciding set tie-break and No. 2 – give youself a fair chance over everyone – whether they are 23-time Grand Slam champion or a rising star who you have never faced before.
Although Boulter went 0-3 at the Hopman Cup, she got valuable court time with some of the best players in the world, including Serena Williams and she pushed her close in their second set.
She handled herself well against former World No. 8 Ekaterina Makarova. While the Russian may not be the force she once was, she does have experience at this level of performing at the big tournaments – can was pushed to three tight sets. It ought to give her the confidence that she can do the same again, albeit against one of the tour’s rising stars.
Aryna Sabalenka is as engaging as you would expect someone coached by the enigmatic Dmitry Tursunov. She charmed the press on her way to the Eastbourne final, and although Wimbledon came and went in a single round, she finished the year at quite a click. She won New Haven and Wuhan towards the end of last year and started the year with the Shenzhen title.
Boulter might give the polished answer of just treating every match as it comes, and looking to learn from every experience, but this is a golden opportunity to get into the mix with the faces that will be the future of the WTA.
It will be a ball-thumping extravaganza – Sabalenka has a real all-or-nothing approach and is easily one of the more impressive ball-strikers on the tour. She has a more than effective serve and actually she is pretty handy at the net too and will finesse into one of the world’s best all-round players as she rises up the rankings.
That is not to say that Boulter does not have her own weapons, but she maybe lacks the variety that Sabalenka has just now – she will choose to search for her forehand and when it starts to misfire, it does leave her out of options. She has a better temperament on court though – you are never in any doubt as to what Sabalenka is feeling! However, slow and steady in the sun probably won’t win the race this time.
Prediction: Sabalenka in straight sets.
Boulter & Sabalenka are scheduled on the Melbourne Arena, not before 2:30pm (3:30am GMT).
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