Aryna Sabalenka bursts into tears after winning Australian Open title

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Aryna Sabalenka was in tears as she won her maiden Grand Slam title as she came from behind to defeat Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina 4-6 6-3 6-4 and be crowned the Australian Open champion. The world No 5 had never made a Major final before this week and now walks away with the biggest title of her career and will now return to her career-high ranking of No 2.

Sabalenka was coming into her first Grand Slam final while Rybakina already had a Major title under her belt, becoming a surprise Wimbledon champion last year, with a lot on the line for both women. The fifth seed had long been touted as a Grand Slam contender but struggled with double faults and on-court outbursts – two problems she targeted over the last few months by working with a psychologist and biomechanics specialist which paid off, as she came into the match having not dropped a set all year so far.

Meanwhile, Rybakina was bidding to finally prove her doubters wrong after failing to be treated like a Grand Slam champion after her Wimbledon win – receiving poor court assignments and picking up a lack of sponsors. The final promised to provide some high-quality heavy-hitting with the Kazakh leading the ace count for the tournament and Sabalenka in third place, while both were in the top four for fastest serve.

And the first two games saw five aces between both women before the 22nd seed took an early break, leading 2-1 as she appeared the stronger player in the few lengthy rallies. Sabalenka responded, setting up triple break-point a few games later and roaring as she converted her second to level things at 4-4, but she gave the break straight back in the next game with a double fault.

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Rybakina closed out the first set to love in 34 minutes, winning more points on her first and second serve throughout the opener while both women fired down five aces each. She looked to take an early lead in the second set with two break points but the 24-year-old managed to hold on and get herself on the board.

This time it was Sabalenka who took the first break of the set after back-to-back errors from the 23-year-old, and she continued to impose herself for the rest of the set as she held three break points at 4-1 and two more at 5-2 but failed to take them, finally serving out the second set 6-3 to leave things all square after an hour and 33 minutes, forcing a decider.

It was the fifth seed who was first to set up a break point in the final set but she was unable to capitalise as Rybakina sat down at the changeover with a 3-2 lead. Sabalenka had three more break points in the Kazakh’s next service game and finally converted one to draw first blood in the decisive third set, going 4-3 up.

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The fifth seed had a tough service game to follow up the break as she was taken to deuce but she held on to find herself a game away from a long-awaited first Grand Slam title. Rybakina held to get one last game on the board before Sabalenka stepped up to serve in what was the most important game of her career, feeling the pressure as she went 15-30 down with two errors.

She held her nerve to win the next two points but served a double-fault on championship point as the game became even more intense, with another error costing her a second championship point. Sabalenka was then forced to save a break point with a booming 192km/h serve that forced an error from Rybakina.

On her third championship point, Sabalenka just sent the ball long, sending the game into its fourth deuce. But on championship point number four she finally closed out a 4-6 6-3 6-4 comeback victory in two hours and 28 minutes to be crowned the Australian Open champion. It marks the biggest title of the 24-year-old’s career and her 12th overall, and means that she remains undefeated so far in 2023 after picking up the Adelaide trophy in her first tournament of the season. 

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