Australian Open Tennis: Sabalenka wins her first major title by defeating Rybakina
Sunday – 7 Rajab 1444 AH – January 29, 2023 AD Issue No [
The heroine Sabalenka and the runner-up Rybakina (EPA)
Melbourne: «Middle East»
Aryna Sabalenka powered to her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open with a 4-6 6-3 6-4 victory over 22nd seed Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in a thrilling final between two of the women’s heavy hitters on Saturday. This victory (11th in a row this year) means that the Belarusian player will return to her highest position in the world rankings, the second to be behind the Polish Iga Chiantik, to reap the benefits of developing her mental stability and appearing as a real threat in the major tournaments.
With Russia and Belarus players allowed to compete as individual athletes without national affiliation at Melbourne Park, due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Sabalenka also became the first neutral player to win a major tournament. Her success followed a period of reflection and change for Sabalenka, who often seemed to let her emotions stop her progress in the major leagues, abandoning her psychiatrist before the start of the season.
Sabalenka worked with a biomechanical coach to improve her serve, which had caused her to fail at key moments in the past, and the results were clear, ahead of the first major tournament of the year, where she won the Adelaide International 1 title. And after deciding to finally win her first major title yesterday, Sabalenka fell to the ground with joy after the victory, and went to half of the Rybakina stadium to hug her before going up to the stands to embrace her assistant team. Her coach, Anton Dubrov, was seen crying with happiness.
Sabalenka, who received the trophy from former world number one Billie Jean King, said: “Thank you very much for this amazing atmosphere. Of course thanks to my craziest team in the game, I’d like to say that. We went through a lot of breaks last year, we worked very hard. I hope to come back next year to perform better, and you guys support me more.”
Rybakina, who won Wimbledon last year, entered the final with great confidence as the first player since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 to beat three Grand Slam champions during her career after defeating Chiantik, Elena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka. The Russian-born Rybakina took a comfortable 3-1 lead after Sabalenka dropped serve with a double fault on serve and a forehand long, but the Kazakhstan player was pressured and allowed her opponent to level the opening set 4-4. Rybakina responded immediately and turned up the heat in windy conditions in Rod Laver Arena to break her opponent’s serve again when Sabalenka committed the fifth double fault on the serve, to settle the set with a strong serve, which the Belarusian player answered in the net.
This was the first time that Sabalenka lost a set in 11 matches in 2023, and her nerves began to fray a little, before the 24-year-old regained her balance and saved two break points in the first half of the second set. Sabalenka’s performance improved to break her opponent’s serve and lead 4-1 before she equalized at 1-1 in the sets with two aces of 11 and 12 in the match and forced her opponent into a deciding set.
Sabalenka served powerfully and was returning with deep strikes throughout the third set to cut holes in Rybakina’s defense and take a 5-3 lead. She then double-faulted on match point and squandered two points later before claiming the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy. “I kept telling myself that no one ever said it was easy,” Sabalenka said. She was going to fight for the title. I said to myself: (work for it, take a deep breath, I said work) »
Rybakina congratulated Sabalenka and acknowledged how hard her opponent had worked to capture her first major title. “I want to congratulate Arina… I know how hard I have worked for this,” Rybakina said. I hope we fight more of these battles. I was moved when everyone was cheering for us. I look forward to returning here next year. It was a great two weeks for me, and I hope to get the same results, and even better ones.”
Rybakina will become the first player from Kazakhstan to enter the world’s top ten after reaching the final of the Australian Open tennis tournament, somehow making up for the points she didn’t get when she won Wimbledon last summer. And it was decided to withhold Wimbledon points last year after the organizers of the grass court tournament prevented Russian and Belarusian players from participating due to the war in Ukraine. She played down the importance of playing her first matches at the Australian Open on small courts. “Of course, I think it will be different in the smaller tournaments,” she said. I will be classified. Maybe I won’t go to the first round in some tournaments. “Of course there are some advantages to that,” she added. But I don’t care much about the numbers or classification.