Aryna Sabalenka has won the first Grand Slam title of her career after beating Elena Rybakina 4-6 6-3 6-4 to lift the 2023 Australian Open.
The 24-year-old Belarusian, forced to compete under a neutral flag due to her nation’s involvement in Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, has long been tipped to lift a major trophy and was one of the favorites at Melbourne Park.
Sabalenka, seeded fifth, has previously had a tendency to crumble in key pressure moments and made headlines in the build-up to the final against Wimbledon champion Rybakina as she spoke about her call to dump her sports psychologist.
Sabalenka headed into the final in incredible form, though, with her last-four victory seeing her become just the third player since the turn of the century to win her first 10 matches at the start of a season without dropping a single set.
She got off to a nervous start and made a double fault on the very first point of the match before recovering to hold serve but it was Kazakhstan’s Rybakina who registered the first break – despite Sabalenka racing into a 40-love lead – as the Belarusian suffered a double fault before hammering a forehand off court.
Sabalenka’s powerful hitting was impressive, though, and she worked her way back into the first set with a break of her own as Rybakina chose the wrong shot, coming into the net and letting Sabalenka shoot a backhand past her.
Rybakina then registered her second break as Sabalenka struggled with her second serves and the 22nd-seed held her serve to claim the first set 6-4 – in what was the first set Sabalenka had lost in 11 matches.
Sabalenka vastly improved in the second set and ran out as a 6-3 winner as she began to dominate rallies and broke Rybakina again to force a decisive third set.
The third set was tense and the crucial moment came in the seventh game as Sabalenka registered her third break of the match with Rybakina simply unable to handle her opponent’s fierce forehand power.
Sabalenka held her serve to go 5-3 up in the third set and go one game away from winning the match but could not register a fourth break as Rybakina also held to make it 5-4 – giving the Belarusian the chance to serve for the trophy.
Sabalenka got the job done in the 10th game of the third set with her fourth Championship point as she ran out a 4-6 6-3 6-4 winner to lift the first major singles trophy of her career.
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