Aryna Sabalenka reckons it will take a few days to let the feeling of winning her maiden Grand Slam sink in; likely to be No.2 in world rankings after defeating Elena Rybakina
Elena Rybakina (left) and champion Aryna Sabalenka with their trophies in Melbourne on Saturday. Pics/AFP, Getty Images
An emotional Aryna Sabalenka said it will take a “few more days” to sink in after battling back from a set down to win a maiden Grand Slam title at the Australian Open on Saturday. The hard-hitting Belarusian collapsed to the court in tears after winning 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 against Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in a high-quality 2hr 28min arm-wrestle on Rod Laver Arena.
The 24-year-old Sabalenka wiped away tears before getting a warm hug from Moscow-born Rybakina, who played a full part in a thrilling match between two of the most powerful hitters in the women’s game.
Sabalenka celebrates championship point
Sabalenka, the fifth seed and form player in 2023, then ran to her player’s box to celebrate with her team. “Thank you, my team, the craziest team on the tour. We’ve been through a lot of, I would say, downs last year,” Sabalenka said, addressing her team after receiving the trophy. “Thank you so much for what you are doing for me. I love you guys.”
‘You’re a great player’
Turning to beaten 22nd seed Rybakina, she added: “You’re such a great player and of course we are going to have many more battles, hopefully in finals of the Grand Slams.” Sabalenka will now rise to second in the world rankings behind Poland’s Iga Swiatek, equalling her career high, having triumphed in her first Grand Slam final.
“I need a few more days to realise what just happened,” Sabalenka told Australia’s Channel Nine. “Oh my god, I’m speechless, to be honest. I was super emotional at the end.” The final—a fitting ending to two weeks of drama and shocks at Melbourne Park—was a match of brutal groundstrokes, precision serving and wonderful rallies from two players at the top of their game.
Rybakina cruised through the first set in 34 minutes but Sabalenka scrapped her way back in a 57-minute second set to take it to a nervy decider. It was then a case of which of the big servers would blink first in a toe-to-toe battle.
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An ace took Sabalenka to 5-3 but the 23-year-old Rybakina held to force her to test her nerves and serve for the championship.‘ She was up to the challenge, but needed four nerve-shredding match points after a display where she hit an astonishing 51 winners and 17 aces.
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