It was immediately clear that the winner of the Australian Open women’s final between Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina would be the one who could control her serve, read returns, and maintain composure under pressure.
That turned out to be 24-year-old Belarusian Sabalenka. Who on Saturday night at Melbourne Park won her maiden Grand Slam championship after rallying to defeat Wimbledon champion Rybakina 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Aryna Sabalenka used 17 aces among her 51 total wins to overcome seven double-faults.
The fact that Sabalenka referred to her coach Anton Dubrov and her fitness trainer Jason Stacy as “the craziest team on tour, I would say” during the post-match ceremony was telling.
Sabalenka, who was playing in her first major final, remarked, “We’ve had a lot of ups and downs last year. “You guys deserve this award since we fought so hard for it. It’s less about me and more about you.
She is a strong player who is currently 11-0 in 2023 with two titles under her belt. Unfortunately, her serve was both her greatest asset and biggest weakness. Long noted for her ability to smash aces, she also had a well-known issue with double-faults, topping the circuit with nearly 400 of them last year, including more than 20 per match.
She ultimately decided to undergo an upgrade to her serving mechanics in August after considerable nagging from her squad. This is now really paying off, combined with a commitment to attempting to remain composed under pressure.
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She has lost just one set all year, which came against Rybakina on Saturday. Rybakina defeated No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the fourth round.
By playing aggressively and, more crucially, by breaking Rybakina three times. The last of which came for a 4-3 lead in the third set that was never surrendered, Sabalenka managed to turn the situation around.
Even so, Sabalenka had to struggle for the victory while serving in what would be the last game; she double-failed on her first match point and needed three more to win.
After nearly 2 1/2 hours, Rybakina fired a forehand long to end the match, and Sabalenka sank to her back on the court, hiding her face as her eyes welled with tears.