It was a battle of nerves. After a tough first round, Aryna Sabalenka rolled up her sleeves. Point after point, she came from behind to defeat Elena Rybakina in straight sets 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to be crowned Australian Open champion on Saturday morning.
Undoubtedly nervous to serve in her first career grand slam, Sabalenka needed four match points before finally winning. After Rybakina’s long ball, which confirmed her victory, the Belarusian fell to the ground. Her arms covered her face, and she began to cry. Euphoria, most likely. Fatigue, too, for sure.
With wet eyes, a smile that speaks volumes, she slowly joined her team on the edge of the stands. Seconds before he took to the stage, the 24-year-old athlete still seemed to realize what was happening to him. She then received her shield from the hands of Billie Jean King, who thanked her for “everything”.[elle a] Made for the sport.
“I’m sorry for my English,” said the winner from the start, “I’m still shaking and I’m a little nervous.”
After congratulating her opponent, Sabalenka moved to address her team, which she laughingly described as “the craziest in the ring”.
“We’ve had a lot of downs last year, we’ve worked hard. You deserve this trophy. This victory is more about you than it is about me. Thank you for all you’ve done for me,” she told them, as the three men responded by forming hearts in their hands.
With the first title of his career over reigning Wimbledon champion, Sabalenka remains undefeated in 11 fights this year.
It was difficult to predict the outcome of this clash, considering that Rybakina’s rating does not really reflect his talent. Despite representing Kazakhstan, the Moscow native was punished by the All England Club’s decision not to award any points to Russian and Belarusian athletes for last year’s invasion of Ukraine. So his world ranking remained the same despite his important win at Wimbledon.
But what we knew was that the two young players would put in a good showing. What did they do.
The match took place in two stages. Elena Rybakina dominated the first round. She allowed herself a first break to serve in the third period to take a 2-1 lead. With Olympic cool, she played caution and strategy against a shaky, sometimes slightly frustrated Sabalenka.
After one round, each player had 5 aces, but the Belarusian had already committed five double faults and nine valid ones.
Then began the second group, which was in store for some big surprises for the audience. Still fragile, Sabalenka had to save two break points in the first half, and the same scenario played out when he returned to serve a few minutes later.
This is where Rybakina started to have more difficulty hitting his opponent’s balls. Sabalenka, regaining her potential, made her first outage to make it 3-1. Gradually, Rybakina lost her perfect figure. In turn, the 23-year-old athlete was a little frustrated at times. But she continued to struggle.
In the second set, Sabalenka made ten unforced errors, but had seven aces and won 72% of his first serve.
The endurance of the athletes was first and foremost tested during the third set. Rybakina, who seemed to have run out of energy, struggled to keep up with Sabalenka. And the strikes of the latter have not lost their strength. In her first Grand Slam final, she had no intention of letting victory slip away.
The Belarusian scored 17 aces and converted three of his 13 break points in the match into victory.
“I know how hard you have worked for this,” Rybakina said to Sabalenka after the duel. The two players were smiling and wishing each other a Grand Slam final.
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