Aryna Sabalenka added her name to the list of Grand Slam champion on the women’s tour. Saturday night in Melbourne, Sabalenka powered past Elena Rybakina in a thriller 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to capture the Australian Open.
“I’m super happy that I was able to handle all those emotions and win this one,” said Sabalenka.
“I’m still shaking and super nervous,” Sabalenka said. “My team, the craziest team on tour, I would say. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs the last year. We worked so hard. You guys deserve this trophy, it’s more about you than me.”
It was Rybakina getting out early. Sabalenka’s first serve of the match was a double fault and that was the theme early. The Belarussian gave up 5 double faults in the first set to help Rybakina’s cause.
Rybakina would score the early break but Sabalenka would get back on serve. However another break would put Rybakina ahead for good.
The two continued to pound winners — they finished with 82 combined — in a tightly contested second set which saw game after game extend to multiple deuces. Sabalenka would strike finalize on a break chance and then hold on. Two aces from the Belarussian and to a decider we would go.
The quality remained high and the Sabalenka double faults from the first set were gone. At 3-all, Sabalenka would get the final break she needed to become a Grand Slam champion.
The 24-year-old had three nervy match points before winning it.
“I think it’s even more enjoyable, I would say, after all those tough matches,” Sabalenka said. “I really feel right now that I really needed those tough losses to kind of understand myself a little bit better. It was like a preparation.
“I actually feel happy that I lost those matches, so right now I can be a different player and just different Aryna.”
Sabalenka finished with 17 aces among her 51 winners and 15 off the backhand. Rybakina had 9 aces in her 31 winners.
“I think Aryna raise her level in the second set,” Rybakina said. “She played really well, aggressive, a bit less mistakes. I should have been also more aggressive in some moments. She was strong mentally, physically.”
Rybakina answered the question if her Wimbledon title was a fluke. The 23-year-old upset Iga Swiatek and showed she had an elite level serve in the women’s game.
“I would say that not many girls can put me really under the pressure,” Rybakina said after. “Against her, it’s not easy because she has a great serve and she plays really aggressive. Her ball is coming very heavy. There is maybe few girls who plays like this.
“Today I had some opportunities. Didn’t take.”
Sabalenka will return to No. 2 in the rankings while Rybakina climbs to No. 10.
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