Sabalenka stuns after set to win Australian Open
She thundered 51 winners to Rybakina’s 31 as they traded big punches in a match-up that lived up to the bill.
Sabalenka began to mend her Grand Slam reputation with three semifinals in her previous five Majors before praising this summer in Australia, the scene of her extreme serve Yips 12 months ago.
Not only was that nightmare behind her, but the 24-year-old, as she told us, had also learned to better control the emotions that had so often overwhelmed her in the past.
Saturday night’s final embodied the transformation Sabalenka underwent as she not only battled her nerves in the early stages, but also a wobbly serve.
She absorbed the disappointment of losing her first set of the tournament and then, under unrelenting pressure, produced two sets of sustained power hits. If she failed to hit big at one point, she got bigger the next – and it has mostly paid off.
Rybakina got off to the better start, beating Sabalenka 40-0 in game three – a double fault by the Belarusian played a part in her fate – but had to weather a predictable storm.
Sabalenka calmed down after her nerve-wracking opening and looked menacing as she smashed a backhand past Rybakina to secure the opener with four to all.
But her serve, such a major topic of conversation after shaking her yip a year ago, let her down as she committed a fifth double fault to immediately return the advantage to Rybakina, who spent the set lovingly.
That was the first set Sabalenka dropped this summer and she immediately found herself in more trouble early in the second set, only to punch herself out as only she can – before taking control of the competition.
She cleaned up her serve problems and more than doubled the number of winners (21) and unforced errors (10) in a largely excellent tennis second set in which she still had challenges to overcome.
Old Sabalenka – who, as she too often admitted in the past, let her emotions dictate her performances – may not have found a solution. Her excess power and aggression paved the way, but equally impressive was her ability to use more angles and maintain intensity without losing her composure.
Sabalenka’s only double fault in set number two after earning a 3-1 lead earned Rybakina a breakback point.
At a pivotal moment, the Belarusian responded by one-hitting a backhand winner – it was that kind of match – to save, then unleashed a “come on” that was more like a roar. She stopped soon after.
That was the Kazakh’s final opening and she had to fight hard with her own serve to avoid a more one-sided set as Sabalenka leveled the match and forced a deciding set.
The tide had really turned by the time the third set began but Rybakina hung on desperately, including saving a break point to take a 3-2 lead.
That proved their ultimate lead of the game as Sabalenka scored a deserved break with a typical ball hit on her third opportunity in game seven.
Her return knocked Rybakina off her feet, and moments later she fell across the middle of the court to move within sight of the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup.
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https://www.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/an-aryna-spectacular-sabalenka-stuns-from-a-set-down-to-win-the-australian-open-20230128-p5cg6r.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_sport Sabalenka stuns after set to win Australian Open