Belarusian fifth seed Aryna Sabalenka won her first Grand Slam singles title by fighting back to beat Elena Rybakina in the Australian Open final yesterday.
In an absorbing contest which showcased the power of both players, 24-year-old Sabalenka triumphed 4-6 6-3 6-4.
Sabalenka, who won under a neutral flag because of Belarus’ support of Russia’s war in Ukraine, hit 51 winners as her high-risk game paid off in Melbourne.
Kazakhstan’s Rybakina was unable to add a second Slam to her Wimbledon title.
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Instead it was Sabalenka who put her name on the exclusive list of people to win a major title as she fulfilled her long-seen potential.
Sabalenka could not convert her first three championship points – producing an edgy double fault, pulling a forehand wide and knocking a backhand long – but also held her nerve in between by saving a break point with a hefty unreturned first serve.
At the fourth opportunity, she finally got over the line when 22nd seed Rybakina hit a forehand long.
Sabalenka, full of elation and emotion, instantly fell to the court and covered her face as she cried in celebration.
After returning to her feet and hugging Rybakina, she walked over to her team for a celebration which also left her coach Anton Dubrov sobbing.