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Meet Aliaksandra Sasnovich, the player left standing after Serena's Wimbledon withdrawal
The former No. 30 kept things light despite a disappointing finish to her first-round clash with 23-time major champion Serena Williams.
Published Jun 30, 2021
Making her Centre Court debut on Tuesday, Aliaksandra Sasnovich wasn’t exactly in unfamiliar territory. It was only three years ago that the speedy Belarusian beat two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova in the first round. Where she had decisively defeated a sentimental favorite in 2018, she stood in a much more uncomfortable reality when 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams was forced to retire six games into their encounter, having apparently aggravated an already-strapped right leg.
As she stepped up to the microphone to deliver her on-court interview, the shell-shocked crowd weren’t prepared for the 27-year-old’s quirky personality, but quickly learned Sasnovich, who maintains a memorable Instagram account, is at her best when able to improvise.
“I like grass. I love England and English people. I love the public,” she says, extending her list as the laughter bubbled up from her captive audience. “I want to stay here as long as possible. I’ll do my best for sure, and try to make you happy.”
Having well and truly charmed Centre Court, the dynamic former Top 30 fixture faced the press and unleashed a slew of off-beat anecdotes.
“It was a dream of my dad,” she quips of her opportunity to at last play against Williams. “He dreamed for eight years in a row, and he just wrote me before the match, that I would play with Serena in Wimbledon, and, yeah, it happened. Of course, I wanted to play the full match, but it's tennis. It happens. It's injury.”
Sasnovich goes on to share her odyssey of even making the main draw, having arrived ranked well below her career-peak at exactly No. 100.
“I prepared at home for, like, one week on—not a grass court but similar, and I came here on the 17th, so I should play qualies. I was first out from main draw, so I was here from 17th. Can you imagine? I was waiting for the match 10 or 11 days. Crazy. That's first time for me that's to wait so long.”
A devotee, one who clearly remembers the Belarusian’s experimental stand-up act from when she employed it en route to a runner-up finish at the 2018 Brisbane International, later asks if she’s found an SW19 dish she’s been eating superstitiously—à la the mushroom risotto she’d found Down Under.
“In the morning I eat Nutella,” she says. “Without Nutella, it's not possible to start the day.”
Truer words were never spoken, and now Sasnovich aims to replicate the second-week run she made in 2018, and hopes her public will follow her onto what will likely be a smaller stage against Nao Hibino.
“Compared to other countries, I will not say which countries, but compared to other countries, I can see that people here really understand tennis. Yeah, they understand tennis on the high level.”