Aryna Sabalenka’s tears of joy and relief were well-deserved as she finally broke through to claim her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.
Sabalenka, the fifth seed, defeated Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in a tension-filled, three-set match at Melbourne Park.
This win marks the end of a glorious summer for Sabalenka, who also claimed the Adelaide International title and lost only one set in 11 matches, leading her to rise back to No.2 in the world rankings.
Sabalenka’s victory was not without its challenges, as Rybakina saved three match points in the final game before Sabalenka ultimately sealed the win.
The Belarusian was overcome with emotion, saying, “I will need a few days to realized what just happened. I’m speechless.”
Sabalenka’s win is even more impressive considering the struggles she faced leading up to the tournament.
Last year, Sabalenka was plagued by serving yips and left Melbourne after 56 double-faults in four matches. In an effort to overcome this issue, Sabalenka turned to a psychologist and the results have been astounding.
Sabalenka has not lost since falling to Caroline Garcia in the season-ending championship final in Texas and out-aced Rybakina, the Open’s ace leader, 17 to nine in the final.
Sabalenka’s success marks a significant transformation in her career.
She had previously lost three Grand Slam semi-finals and stated, “It was really needed from me to understand what I needed to change and improve.”
Sabalenka credited her team for their hard work and dedication, saying, “You deserve this trophy more than me.”
Sabalenka’s victory also marks a significant moment for women’s tennis.
She is the last player to defeat former world No.1 Ash Barty in a final, beating her in Madrid in 2019.
Barty, who returned to Rod Laver Arena to return the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, was thrilled for Sabalenka and her success.
While Rybakina may not have claimed the title, she should be proud of her performance.
She became the first woman since Jennifer Capriati 22 years ago to beat three major champions at Melbourne Park and will rise to the top 10 in the world rankings for the first time on Monday.
Sabalenka and Rybakina have a promising rivalry ahead of them and Sabalenka expressed her hope that they will have many more battles, “hopefully in the finals of Grand Slams.”