We’ll have a first-time Australian Open champion on Saturday in Melbourne — either Aryna Sabalenka or Elena Rybakina. Who will win the prestigious trophy?
Rybakina has done it before
The fact that speaks in Rybakina’s favor is that she has experience in Grand Slam finals, having won Wimbledon 2022. On the other hand, Sabalenka has managed to win a major semifinal for the first time in four tries.
Sabalenka boasts a perfect win-loss record in 2023 and against Rybakina
Stats that work in Sabalenka’s favor are her perfect win-loss record in 2023 and perfect head-to-head record against Rybakina. The world No.5 has won all her ten matches this season in straight sets. The Belarusian also boasts a 3-0 win-loss record against Rybakina, although all these encounters were decided in three sets and they all happened before the Kazakh’s Wimbledon breakthrough.
Rybakina defeated more high-profile opponents en route to the Australian Open final
The average rank of Rybakina’s opponents in the previous six matches was 34, compared to 46 in Sabalenka’s case. But that number is not so important. What’s notable is that Rybakina defeated three Grand Slam champions in a row in her previous three rounds, including the world No.1 Iga Swiatek and two-time Australian Open winner Victoria Azarenka. In addition, in the third round Rybakina’s victim was last year’s runner-up Danielle Collins.
Rybakina faced Top 30 opponents in her last four encounters. On the other hand, Sabalenka’s only Top 30 opponent was world No.10 and Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic in the fourth round.
Powerful serves and fast groundstrokes on both sides
We can expect big hitting, massive serves and a lot of aces in this women’s singles final.
Rybakina struck a tournament-leading 45 aces in her six matches, taking her total at Grand Slams since the start of 2022 to a Tour-leading 125. Moreover, the 23-year-old hit the fastest women’s serve at this year’s Australian Open, 195 km/h (121.2 mph).
Sabalenka is not far behind, ranked third in the ace leaders list with 29 aces and fourth in the women’s singles speed leaders rankings with a 193 km/h serve.
When Rybakina’s serve is on, she rarely misses a point. The world No.25 has a winning percentage of 80% when her first serve gets in, which is the best performance in women’s singles at the 2023 Australian Open (tied with Zheng Qinwen who lost in the second round). Sabalenka is not far behind in these rankings either, occupying position No.7 with 75%.
However, Rybakina’s average first-serve percentage in Melbourne is low, 55%. This vulnerability is especially dangerous given that Sabalenka has won 63% of points on her opponents’ second serves. But we also have to mention that Sabalenka generously awards opponents with double faults, having served 22 so far at the tournament, compared to Rybakina’s 13.
Who will win the Australian Open title?
It is obviously very hard to say, as both players are in excellent form. The fifth-seeded Sabalenka can get nervous and let mental pressure affect her game, while Rybakina always seems calm and collected, although she reveals it only appears so on the outside. We can’t neglect the fact that Sabalenka is undefeated in 2023 and has also never lost to Rybakina in their three career meetings, but I have a feeling that the Kazakh could have the edge this time. What do you think? Tell me in the comments below.