Home sport Aryna Sabalenka beat Elena Rybakina to win a thrilling final at the Women’s Australian Open

Aryna Sabalenka beat Elena Rybakina to win a thrilling final at the Women’s Australian Open

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Belarusian-born Aryna Sabalenka defeated Elena Rybakina in three sets to win a thrilling run at the women’s Australian Open last Saturday, becoming the first player to compete under a neutral flag to win a Grand Slam title.

Amid the ongoing dispute in Ukraine, Tennis Australia has asked players from Russia and Belarus to compete as neutrals.

Sabalenka won the first set, coming from behind to beat the reigning Wimbledon champion 4-6 6-3 6-4 in a remarkable turnaround in Melbourne.

A break of Rybakina’s serve in the seventh game of a tense third set proved to be a breakthrough for the fifth seed, setting the stage for eventual success.

A jittery start from Sabalenka — she made five double faults and won just four points on second serve in the opening set — made it look like it would be a routine second grand slam for Rybakina as she won the first set in 34 minutes.

But Sabalenka found precision and power in the second and third sets, with Rybakina faltering in the deciding stages. The Russian-born Kazakh, who is also a great hitter, scored three runs in the tournament but hit a long forehand in the fourth. Sabalenka fell to the floor, breaking into tears after winning her first major.

She celebrated entering the players’ box when her coach, Anton Dubrov, was seen sobbing into a washcloth.

“I’m still very shaky and nervous,” she told viewers in her courtroom address before the show.

After receiving the trophy from Billie Jean King, Sabalenka thanked the American great for her pioneering work in women’s soccer and then thanked her team, which she called “the craziest on the circuit.”

“We’ve had a lot of mistakes in the past year,” she said. “We worked hard, you deserve this trophy, it’s more about you than me. Thank you very much for everything you do for me. I love you.”

The Minsk-born Sabalenka was playing in her first Grand Slam final, after losing three matches in the semi-finals. Initially, the game opened with a double fault as nerves clearly played their part on an occasion like this. She later admitted that she did not “do my best” tactically in the first set.

In the second set, Rybakina hit a forehand and broke early to take a 3-1 lead. Lorsque Rybakina a menacé of rebondir all of the suite, as it elle available dans the premier set, Sabalenka a tenu bon et a battu une autre double faute pour porter son avance à 4-1 avant de s’adjuger le set d’une Head.

After an excellent second set by Sabalenka, the match turned tense in the deciding third set. At first the pair, both having the guts to get in their shots, battled to conserve strength, but it was Sabalenka who broke through in the end.

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

“I’m so happy and proud. There are so many things in my head. I’m not on this planet right now. It’s a bit of a relief that I was in the top 10 but I haven’t had a Grand Slam title and I haven’t won yet, and it’s very difficult to get it, every tournament has been very impressive.

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

When Sabalenka was asked how she would celebrate, she replied with a laugh: “Maybe I’ll eat what I couldn’t eat this week.”

More to track.

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