Aryna Sabalenka defeated reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 4-6 6-3 6-4 in the final of the 2023 Australian Open to claim her maiden Grand Slam title.
This Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup was important to Rybakina, as it would partially right the wrongs of her not winning any ranking points for last year’s Wimbledon triumph, but Sabalenka edged the final in Melbourne and extended her perfect record against the Kazakh player to 4-0.
The first three games featured as many as seven aces between the finalists, but there was also a break by Rybakina. The 22nd seed further solidified her position with a love hold for 4-2. Even though she was playing her first major final, the fifth-seeded Sabalenka wasn’t intimidated by the result and earned three consecutive break opportunities in the eighth game, converting her second one to level the score to 4-4. With her fifth double fault creeping in, Sabalenka once again dropped serve and this time couldn’t recover, as ice cold Rybakina consolidated the lead with a love hold.
Just as it looked like Rybakina would carry the momentum into the second set, Sabalenka managed to save two break points in the opening game and started surging through. After failing to convert two set points at 5-2 on Rybakina’s serve, Sabalenka served two consecutive aces to finish the job in her service game.
These WTA players have faced each other four times and all four of their meetings were three-setters.
Fast serves got Rybakina out of a bad situation at 2-2, but soon afterwards, at 3-3, the match was truly being decided. After saving two break points with good serves, once Rybakina’s first serve didn’t get in, Sabalenka full on attacked and took charge.
Serving for her maiden Grand Slam title at 5-4, Sabalenka double faulted on her first championship point. Eventually she used her fourth match point when Rybakina sent a forehand long.
On Monday, Sabalenka will move to No.2, equaling her career-high ranking. Rybakina will become the first player representing Kazakhstan to reach the Top 10.
This is a continuation of Sabalenka’s perfect start to the 2023 season, as she’s now won 11 consecutive matches. Although, we should note, Rybakina is the first player who managed to win a set against the Belarusian this year.
Besides Rybakina, players that Sabalenka conquered en route to the Australian Open title include: Tereza Martincova in the first round, Shelby Rogers in the second, Elise Mertens in the third, Belinda Bencic in the fourth, Donna Vekic in the quarterfinals and Magda Linette in the semis.