Aryna Sanalenka needed four match points to achieve her tennis dream as she won the Australian Open 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 over Elena Rybakina on Saturday.
The victory in two and a half hours kept Moscow-born Kazakh Rybakina from backing up the Wimbledon trophy she claimed last July over Ons Jabeur.
Sabalenka will move to second in the world behind Poland’s Iga Swiatek in Monday’s rankings.
The winner had to fight to close out the biggest success of her career as Rybakina defended fiercely in the concluding game at the Laver showcourt.
Sabalenka came good in the end as a Rybakina forehand went long.
Now-retired 2022 Open winner Ash Barty from Australia played a major role in the trophy ceremony, with the actual jewellry presented by legend Billie Jean King.
Sabalenka stands a perfect 11-0 this season, with the final her only match extending to three sets.
The winner posted 17 aces among 58 winners and 28 unforced errors; Rybakina’s totals were nine, 31 and 25.
“I’m still shaking, I’m super-nervous,” the winner said. “It’s such an inspiration to get the trophy from Billie Jean.
“Thanks for all you have done for our sport.
“Elena had an incredible two weeks, We’re gonna have many more battles – hopefully in other Grand Slam finals.”
The payer who had to cure a serious case of the serving yips in 2022 tanked her coaching team, which she called “the craziest on Tour.”
“We went through a lot of downs last year but we worked so hard. This trophy is more about them than me.
“I hope to come back stronger next year and show even better tennis.”
Sabalenka now stands 4-0 over her rival, with previous wins in Wimbledon and Abu Dhabi in 2021 and Wuhan in 2019.
She broke through for a Grand Slam finals place after semi-finals at Wimbledon and twice at the US Open.
Rybakina made her winning intentions known early, starting with a break of serve in the third game.
She then lost it as Sabalenka broke back for 4-all; but the fifth seed was unable to profit, with Rybakina breaking again to lead 5-4,
She closed out the set a game later on her first opportunity.
Sabalenka squared the match in a second set lasting for nearly an hour as she ran off a 5-2 lead. Rybakina saved three break points in an eight-minute sixth game as well as a pair of set points in the eighth to pull to 3-5.
But Sabalenka finished off the set with a second-serve ace on her third opportunity in the next game.
The seed who came to the final with a 10-0 record in 2023 after also winning the Adelaide title, moved into her first three-set match of the season, with Rybakina taking the early lead with a hold, 1-0.
Sabalenka put pressure on her opponent in the seventh game, earning the break for 4-3 with an overhead after Rybakina had saved two break points. She consolidated 5-3, closing with a 17th ace.
“Aryna has had a great start to the season, I know how hard you’ve worked.
“My team and I did a great job in the preseason and over the past three or four years.
“I feel good paying here – I got goosebumps when we were introduced.
“I’m looking forward to coming back next year.. Hopefully I can have the same result and maybe even better,” the player who defeated five seeds including world No. 1 Swiatek during the fortnight said.
Main photo:- Australian Open 2023 Aryna Sabalenka (xxx) celebrates after she wins Ladies Singles Final Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd