Aryna Sabalenka powers to breakthrough major win


With a grand slam title to her name, Sabalenka is surging to the top and shapes as a worthy challenger to world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, a player she defeated in the 2022 WTA Finals.

Shortly after Rybakina clinched the opening set of the final, a message lobbed in the work inbox with an assessment of the ball-bursting bludgeoning approach from both players.

“My kingdom for a sliced backhand. Or a drop shot. Or a net approach. Just anything to change things up,” the message read.

Aryna Sabalenka falls to the court after completing the come-from-behind win.

Aryna Sabalenka falls to the court after completing the come-from-behind win.Credit:Eddie Jim

The finalists are outstanding tennis players blessed with phenomenal power. They strike their serves with blistering pace and thunder groundstrokes with venom.

For those who prefer aesthetically pleasing tennis, with slices and volleys and court craft coming to the fore, this was not necessarily a match for them. But it was still a great final.

Their styles contrasted starkly to the manner with which 2022 champion Ash Barty, who brought the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup on to court on Saturday, claimed the crown.

So too, for that manner, the legends Evonne Goolagong Cawley and Billie Jean King, who sat beside each other and shot the breeze early on while the finalists slugged it out.

Aryna Sabalenka unleashes a forehand.

Aryna Sabalenka unleashes a forehand.Credit:Getty Images

That is not to be dismissive of either the champion or the runner-up. Players work to their weapons and both Rybakina and Sabalenka stand above 1.8 metres and are athletic stars.

They boast flatter, harder serves and proved capable of blasting aces regularly, with Sabalenka clubbing 17 for the final, including five in the final set.

To be accurate, Barty was also blessed with a superb serve and her variety made it even more potent, with the Queenslander ranking highly in statistical measures during her reign.

Elena Rybakina was gallant in defeat in a gripping decider.

Elena Rybakina was gallant in defeat in a gripping decider.Credit:AP

But she had to work the angles and use her subtle changes of trajectory and spin to win points. While capable of ripping a forehand winner, her all-round package was more crucial.

Sabalenka and Rybakina, in contrast, favour first-strike tennis and thumped winners throughout.

By the start of the third set, the Belarusian had whipped 33 winners past Rybakina, who was more than upholding her own end of the bargain with 18 to her name.

The average rally length for the match was 3.28 shots, well below the 4.2 shots per match averaged through until the end of the fourth round of the Australian Open.

There were some spectacular points. And the blistering winners had a near-capacity crowd gasping in awe as well.

Barty’s reign is over. The style is different. And if Sabalenka is the future, expect power to reign supreme.


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