Vivid News 24: Aryna Sabalenka defeated Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, the 22nd seed, in a thrilling final between two of the sport’s most intriguing power hitters, 4-6 6-3 6-4, to capture her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
With her 11th straight victory of the year, the Belarusian will rise to a career-high ranking of a second behind Iga Swiatek, capitalizing on her improved mental stability and service to establish herself as a real threat in major tournaments. Rybakina had a comfortable 3-1 lead after Sabalenka, the fifth seed, double-failed on her big serve and blasted a forehand long.
However, Rybakina became under pressure and let her opponent tie the first set at 4-4. Rybakina quickly reacted at Rod Laver Arena after Sabalenka double-failed for the fifth time, turning up the heat to win another break and go on to take the set with a strong serve that the Belarusian returned into the net.
Sabalenka, the Adelaide champion, began to feel a little uneasy because it was her first set defeat in 11 matches this year. Nevertheless, she quickly gathered herself and avoided two breakpoints in the opening game of the following set.
As the match at Melbourne Park entered the third set, Sabalenka began to play more consistently and broke, but she first had to overcome a wobble to take a 4-1 lead. She then let out a loud shout and used her 11th and 12th aces to tie the match.
In the decisive set, Sabalenka delivered a vicious service and pounded deep returns to rip holes in Rybakina’s defense and take the lead 5-3. Later, she wasted two more match points and double-failed on one before winning and taking home the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup. Before walking up to her players’ box to embrace her team, she went over to Rybakina’s side of the floor and hugged her.