Aryna Sabalenka defeats Elena Rybakina to win thrilling women’s Australian Open final



Belarus-born Aryna Sabalenka defeated Elena Rybakina in three sets on Saturday to reach a thrilling women’s Australian Open final, becoming the first player to win a Grand Slam.

During the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, tournament organizers Tennis Australia required Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutrals.

Down in the opening set, Sablenka defeated the reigning Wimbledon champion 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a stunning turnaround in Melbourne.

Breaking Rybakina’s serve in the seventh game of a tense third set proved to be a crucial breakthrough for the fifth seed, whose venomous serve and intense groundstrokes eventually paved the way for her breakthrough.

A nervous start from Sabalenka – she committed five double faults and won just four points on second serve in the first set – made it look like it would be a routine second Grand Slam for Rybakina as she took the first set in 34 minutes.

But Sabalenka found precision as well as power in the second and third sets, with Rybakina losing at crucial stages. The Russian-born Kazakh, also a big hitter, won three championship points but sent a forehand long on the fourth. Sablenka fell to the ground, in tears as she won her first major.

He celebrated by climbing into the players’ box where his coach, Anton Dubrov, could be seen crying into a towel.

“I’m still shaking and very nervous,” she told the audience in her on-court speech before the presentation.

Upon receiving the trophy from Billie Jean King, Sabalenka thanked the American great for her pioneering work for the women’s game, and thanked her team, which she described as “the craziest on tour”.

“We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs this past year,” he said. “We worked so hard, you guys deserve this trophy, it’s more about you than me. Thank you so much for everything you do for me. I love you.”

Sablenka secured her victory in three sets.

Minsk-born Sabalenka was competing in her first Grand Slam final, having previously lost three major semi-finals. Serving first, she opened the match with a double fault as nerves clearly played a role on such occasions. He later admitted that he “didn’t play my best” in the first set.

In the second set she hit a Rybakina forehand and broke early for a 3-1 lead. When Rybakina threatened an immediate comeback, as she had done in the first set, Sabalenka held strong, overcoming another double fault before winning the set with an ace to extend her lead to 4-1. .

After Sablenka’s dominant second-set performance, the match entered a tense third-set decider. The pair went toe-to-toe at the start, with both bravely going for their shots to maintain momentum, but it was Sabalenka who ultimately finished with 17 aces and 51 winners to end an entertaining final.

“I need a few more days to understand what happened,” Sabalenka told Eurosport.

“I am very happy and proud. I have so many things on my mind. I am not on this planet right now. It’s kind of a relief, I’m in the top 10 but I don’t have a Grand Slam trophy yet and it was really hard to get it, every Slam was very emotional.

“It’s a relief, it’s a joy, I’m proud of myself, of everyone.”

Asked how she will celebrate, Sabalenka said with a laugh: “Probably eating everything I didn’t get to do this week.”

Sabalenka fell to the ground as she won.

Rybakina was ranked 25th in the world coming into the tournament – ​​a position that reflected her talent and success – and began the tournament playing on the outdoor courts.

Her failure to break into the top 10 stemmed mainly from the fact that ranking points from the previous year’s Wimbledon were removed due to the tournament’s decision. Ban Russians and Belarusians from playing

Reaching the final in Melbourne – where she defeated three former Grand Slam winners in Iga Sviatek, Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka – will undoubtedly help her rise up the rankings.

“Hopefully we will have many more fights,” Rybakina told Sabalenka during the trophy presentation. “It was a good year for me and hopefully next year I will have the same result and (do) even better.”

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