Melbourne, Jan 28 (IANS) With a breathtaking display of power and unnerving composure, Belarusian fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka came back from a set down to defeat Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the final to win the Australian Open 2023 women’s singles crown and her first Grand Slam title, here on Saturday.
The match was featured as one between two fearless offensive players, a narrative that played out throughout the dramatic 2-hour, 28-minute long final.
In the end, the players struck 82 winners between them, 51 from the racquet of Sabalenka, but the undaunting play of the No.5 seed during tense moments ultimately made the difference.
At 3-3 in the third set, Sabalenka — on her third break opportunity of the game — blistered a second-serve return, then finished off the point with a midcourt overhead winner to take the lead.
She finished off the next game swiftly with an ace, her 16th of the match, for a 5-3 lead. Rybakina, last year’s Wimbledon champion, held on to make it 5-4.
With Sabalenka, taking the court to finish off the match, she took a few deep breaths and methodically walked to the court. After winning on her fourth match point, Sabalenka fell to the court in celebration when Rybakina overhit a forehand long.
The 24-year-old received the championship trophy from Billie Jean King, whom she thanked for everything she’s done for women’s tennis.
“I’m still shaking and super nervous. My team — the craziest team on tour, I would say. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs in the last year. We worked so hard. You guys deserve this trophy, it’s more about you than me,” Sabalenka said.
With this, Sabalenka has now won all 11 of her matches in this new year and that opening set against the No.22-seeded Rybakina was the first one she’s dropped. She’s now won all four career matches against Rybakina — all in three sets.
On Monday, Sabalenka will match her career high when she moves up to No.2 in the rankings. She finds herself 4,385 behind Swiatek, but the top-ranked player is defending 6,270 points through Roland Garros — the downside of winning six consecutive tournaments and 37 straight matches a year ago. Rybakina will make her Top 10 debut.