Aryna Sabalenka claims emotional victory over Paula Badosa at Miami Open

Aryna Sabalenka claimed a straight-sets victory over Paula Badosa to progress into the last 32 of the Miami Open days after the death of her former boyfriend Konstantin Koltsov.

Two-time Australian Open champion Sabalenka returned to the tennis court after Koltsov died at the age of 42 on Monday in what police described as an “apparent suicide” in Miami.

Koltsov’s death led Sabalenka to reveal her “heart is broken”, but she was able to show incredible composure and poise to beat good friend Badosa 6-4 6-3 after an emotional few days.

Wet weather in Miami resulted in a lengthy delay before play on day three could finally get under way, with Sabalenka welcomed onto the Grandstand court to warm applause.

Dressed in black and with a baseball cap on, the Belarusian looked up to the sky before she gave Badosa a fist pump at the coin toss with her opponent also kitted out in all-black.

After a cagey start with the pair exchanging double-faults, Sabalenka forced two break points opportunities in the fifth game but Badosa fought back to hold.

It was brief respite for the Spaniard, with Sabalenka able to eventually clinch the first break point of the match to move 4-3 up when Badosa sent her return long.

Sabalenka sealed the first set when her fierce backhand was returned wide to claim a 46-minute opener in windy conditions.

Aryna Sabalenka, right, and Paula Badosa walk off court together after their match
Aryna Sabalenka, right, and Paula Badosa walk off court together after their match (Lynne Sladky/AP)

The pair shared a smile during the second game of set two when a big gust of wind forced Sabalenka to abandon her serve which sparked laughter from the crowd and the world number two.

It was soon back to business for the 25-year-old and she broke Badosa again to move 2-1 up.

Badosa forced a break point opportunity of her own in the eighth game of the second set, but Sabalenka responded with a sumptuous winner that earned applause from her opponent.

Sabalenka broke Badosa again to secure victory before the good friends embraced at the net as the second seed opened her account for the tournament with an emotional win.

Sabalenka is understandably not undertaking post-match media duties but Badosa praised her friend and opponent as a “strong woman”.

Miami Open Tennis
Aryna Sabalenka returned to action in the second round of the Miami Open (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky/PA)

“Honestly, both of us are pretty strong mentally,” Badosa said. “We’re strong women. She proved it. I proved it. We knew how to disconnect in that match.

“She played really well. I played really well for where I’m coming from (following injury). I think it was quite decent.

“That all comes from because we know we’ve been through a lot in our lives, we’re strong women, and we know how to separate that in that moment.”

Asked if she was surprised by Sabalenka’s level of play in the circumstances, Badosa added: “No, I wasn’t surprised at all. As I said, she’s a very, very strong woman, strong personality. You can see it on the court. Especially I know her off court. It doesn’t surprise me at all.

Aryna Sabalenka walks off the court after winning her match
Aryna Sabalenka walks off the court after winning her match (Lynne Sladky/AP)

“I knew she was going to play very well or like normal. I told her I wish her the best. Let’s see if she can go very deep in this tournament.”

Next up for Sabalenka is a third-round clash with Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina after she beat Caroline Wozniacki on Thursday.

Coco Gauff joined Sabalenka in the last 32 with a rapid 6-1 6-2 triumph over Nadia Podoroska.

Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek were among a host of big names whose scheduled matches were delayed until Saturday due to the downpours.