Aryna Sabalenka had to fight tooth and nail and some nerves as well to outslug Elena Rybakina 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 to win the women’s singles crown at the 2023 Australian Open. On Super Saturday, at the Rod Laver Arena, in a battle between two of the biggest hitters of the game, packed with power and noise, the two ladies were going for the jugular.
That Rybakina won finally on her fourth match point summed up the sweet story. There was not much to differentiate the two girls as they showed the uncanny power of hitting the ball with full force and covering the ground with great foot speed. Considering the amount of controversy this Australian Open has generated for needles reasons, where favorite names bit the dust, these two women from Kazakhstan and Belarus were in orbit.
Noise from the racket head and noise from the oohs and aahs from Sabalenka kept the crowd engaged under arc lights. In tennis, there is a phrase, going for broke. That fitted both these combatants as they were in murderous aggression zone. This was expected on the hard courts of Melbourne, which is a trifle slower than the surface at the US Open in New York.
Then again, playing on hard courts requires a great degree of consistency and pedigree. There was not much to separate the two, one factor in favor of Elena Rybakina being her status as Wimbledon champion. In contrast, Sabalenka has won two Grand Slam titles, both in doubles.
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Maiden Grand Slam final, maiden Grand Slam title for Aryna Sabalenka
This was another day, where the game was so simple. Yet the strategy and execution was complex in a match where there were thrills and spills. It was a heavy artillery battle for three sets, each game engrossing and captivating the Rod Laver Arena, packed to the rafters. There was Elena in an elegant black top while Sabalenka was colorfully dressed.
You had to feel sorry for the tennis ball which was being whacked from end to end. The shot production from each player was top-class. But in the decider, Sabalenka showed she had that extra edge when she got the vital break in the fifth game. It was a game that brought out the beast in each player in terms of slamming the ball harder and fighting for each point as if their life depended on it.
What looked a bit strange was in the closing stages, when Elena Rybakina was losing the edge. Was it due to the sustained sledgehammering from the Belarus player or crowd pressure, Elena knew best. Perhaps, if hunger could be defined on this day, Sabalenka looked ready to bite and chew. She was using great shoulder rotation while using the backhand and it was evident she could change the trajectory of the shot in a jiffy.
It was muscular, no doubt, with the cross-court curler a killer. The service speed digital monitor, flashing the kilometers per hour, kept jumping. Was it men’s tennis or women’s tennis, one could not make it. For sheer vroom and zoom in the serve, there was a lot to see as the ball was flying from the racket head acceleration. At the final point of contact in the serve, you had to guess what was going to fly.
For Elena Rybakina, this was a great campaign. She has faced hard questions in Melbourne on Russia, even though she is a Kazakhi. Sabalenka being from Belarus was a taboo topic. It serves the Aussies right a Belarusian won the title!
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