The women’s Australian Open final was won by Belarusian born Aryna Sabalenka who defeated Elena Rabikana in three sets in a thrilling final in Melbourne, Saturday.
She became the first player competing under a neutral flag to claim a grand slam. This was subject to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the tournament organisers Tennis Australia requiring Russian and Belarusian players to compete as neutrals. In her quest for the title and reaching the final in Melbourne she defeated three former grand slam winners along the way in Iga Swiatek, Jalena Ostanpenko and Victoria Azarenka.
The first set commenced with the 25 ranked Elena Rabakina showing a class of grand slam winner as she dominated the opening set and wrapped it up with 4-6 advantage.
Sabalenka, who has never won a grand slam and had previously lost in three semi- finals bounced back in the second set from behind over powering the reigning Wimbledon champion. Realising her struggle in the first set which she double faulted in the opening serve, obviously lacking tactical discipline. The Belarusian cleared her nerves to lead 4-1, before that Elena Rybakina was on fire with good fast pace and near excellent returns, but Ayna targeted Elena forehand and broke early for a 3-1 lead. She eventually clinched the second set 6-3 with an ace.
The third set and decider saw both players rise up to the rankings before the start of the tournament. They both went toe-to-toe with tough challenge of exchange of shots, brave power and maintained improved play, but additional intensity saw the Minsk- born brook through, after entertaining the spectators in the final with 17 aces and 51 winners at the Melbourne court. Sabalenka clinched the title as first player under neutral flag to secure a grand slam.
The first Kazakhstan to play in the final of the Australian Open, Rybakina, at the trophy presentation expressed her hope there will be many more battles with Sabalenka. She further stated that it has been a good year and hopefully the season could be the same result and (do) even better.
On her part the Belarusian was proud of her performance and the euphoria is unbelievable having been in the top 10 but didn’t have a grand slam trophy yet. “It’s been really tough to get it, every slam was super emotional.” Sabalenka said.
She further said it is relief and joy! Sabalenka also added “I’m proud of myself and, of everyone.” After clinching her first grand slam title 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Melbourne final, ending a years-long wait in style as she extended her 2023 winning streak to 11 matches.