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Aryna Sabalenka wins at Miami Open in first match since death of her former partner

Aryna Sabalenka wins at Miami Open in first match
CNNAryna Sabalenka defeated Paula Badosa in the second round at the Miami Open on Friday, playing just days after the death of her ex-partner, former professional ice hockey player Konstantin Koltsov.

The world No. 2 Belarusian had a first-round bye in the tournament because of her seeding, and so took to the court for the first time this week against Spain’s Badosa, emerging with a 6-4 6-3 victory.

Koltsov, who played 144 games for the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, died in what the Miami-Dade Police Department is calling an “apparent suicide” with no foul play suspected.

“Konstantin’s death is an unthinkable tragedy, and while we were no longer together, my heart is broken,” Sabalenka said in a statement on Wednesday. “Please respect my privacy and his family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

Badosa is one of Sabalenka’s close friends on tour and had spoken at length before the match about how difficult the week had been. Afterwards their match, the pair embraced at the net and shared a moment together.

“No, I wasn’t surprised at all (by Sabalenka’s play)”, Badosa told reporters after losing to Sabalenka. “She’s a very, very strong woman, strong personality, you can see it on the court. I knew she was going to play very well and I told her I wish her the best and let’s see if she can go very deep in this tournament.”

Although Sabalenka served three double faults in her opening two service games, she settled into her usual, powerful rhythm and broke her opponent at 4-3, before rounding off the set.

Then, in the second set, she broke Badosa twice more while her own serve remained impregnable and she completed her victory in an hour and 23 minutes.

Sabalenka will now face Ukraine’s Anhelina Kalinina in the third round of the tournament.

Elsewhere in the tournament, US Open champion Coco Gauff defeated Argentine qualifier Nadia Podoroska 6-1 6-2 to secure her spot in the third round.

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