GUADALAJARA, MEXICO (REUTERS) – World No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka said she got vaccinated against Covid-19 after having to miss last month’s Indian Wells tournament because she contracted the coronavirus.
The Belarusian, speaking on the eve of the season-ending WTA Finals in Guadalajara, Mexico, had previously expressed concern about the vaccines, saying she was worried about how quickly they had been produced and which one might be the best for her.
“I think I’m clear right now because in Miami I did the vaccine, Johnson & Johnson,” the 23-year-old told reporters on Tuesday (Nov 9).
“Hopefully, I’m safe because I don’t want to stay in quarantine any more. It’s not a lot of fun.”
Sabalenka said she could not move for four days after testing positive last month.
“I stayed in the room for 10 days. I was doing some workout there, but it wasn’t enough,” she said.
“I didn’t have taste, I didn’t have smell. Wasn’t really an amazing time.”
Sabalenka is the top seed at the WTA Finals after world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty decided not to travel to Mexico. She will face Spain’s Paula Badosa in her first match on Thursday.
The WTA Finals, contested by the world’s top eight singles players and eight doubles teams, was relocated to Mexico from Shenzhen due to Covid-19 travel restrictions in China.
The location shift has posed a challenge for the players. Adjusting to the thin air of Guadalajara has been a struggle for players in the lead-up to the WTA Finals, with the high-altitude conditions making it difficult for them to catch their breath and control their shots.
Guadalajara sits about 1,500 metres above sea level and the thin air has made it difficult to control the ball for the finalists, who arrived at the venue days ahead of the event in a bid to acclimatise.
Two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza said she had played in Mexico before but never in such conditions.
“I have not experienced anything like this before, this altitude,” the Spaniard said.
“I’ve definitely played well in Mexico in other conditions. Just struggling to get used to conditions because I’ve never experienced anything like that… just controlling the ball and playing and getting used to tennis in this altitude, I feel like it’s hard. But I feel like it’s hard for everybody.”
Compatriot Paula Badosa said she arrived a few days earlier but it was still difficult to adapt, while Greek Maria Sakkari said minimising mistakes would be key.
“We knew that there is 1,500m altitude here. We knew we had to adjust,” Sakkari said.
“I personally know I might not play my best tennis, but I have to accept it because sometimes it will feel weird. Sometimes you’ll make mistakes that you wouldn’t make in sea-level tournament.”
Sabalenka was in “shock” when she first practised but the Belarusian was confident she was getting better as she spent more time on the courts.
“First day I arrived here, I mean, I wasn’t surprised but I was shocked that I cannot control anything,” she said.
“I was playing around the strings a little bit, found the perfect tension. I start practising. I think with every day I feel better and better.”