Sabalenka’s time to shine

Agence France-Presse

MELBOURNE, Australia – An emotional Aryna Sabalenka battled back from a set down to beat Elena Rybakina and win the Australian Open on Saturday for her first Grand Slam title.

The hard-hitting Belarusian collapsed to the court in tears after winning, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, against the Wimbledon champion in a two-hour 28-minute 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, the fifth seed, 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.

“Thank you so much for what you are doing for me. I love you guys.”

She added: “I want to congratulate Elena for an incredible two weeks. You’re such a great player and of course we are going to have many more battles, hopefully in finals of the Grand Slams.”

It was a fitting finale to two weeks of drama at Melbourne Park, highlighted by 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.

Sabalenka will now rise to second in the world, equalling her career high.


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