Belarusian-born Arina Sabalenka defeated Elena Rybakina In three sets to win exciting women Australian Open Last Saturday, he became the first player to compete under an independent flag to achieve the feat.

Due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, tournament organizer Tennis Australia required Russian and Belarusian players to compete neutrally.

Sabalenka, who lost the opening set, came from behind to beat the Wimbledon champion 4-6 6-3 6-4 in Melbourne.

A break of Rybakina’s serve in a tense third set in the seventh proved to be the decisive breakthrough for the fifth seed.

After a shaky start from Sabalenka – she made five double faults in the first set and won just four points on her second serve – she took the first set in 34 minutes to make it look like a major breakthrough for Rybakina’s second set.

But Sabalenka found precision and power in the second and third sets, with Rybakina slowing down in crucial stages. The Russian-born Kazakhstan, the underdog, sent the championship points a long way in the fourth despite earning three points. Sabalenka fell to the ground, reduced to tears as she defeated the maid’s battalion.

She celebrated by climbing into the players’ box where her coach, Anton Dubrov, was seen crying on a towel.

“I’m still shaking and I’m really worried,” she told the audience during her courtroom speech before the show.

Accepting the trophy from Billie Jean King, Sabalenka thanked the American for her pioneering efforts in the women’s game and her team, which she described as “the craziest on tour.”

“We went through a lot of problems last year,” she said. “We’ve worked really hard, you guys deserve this trophy, it’s more about you than me. Thank you so much for everything you do for me. I love you.”

Sabalenka has won in three games.

Minsk-born Sabalenka was in her first major final, having already won three major semi-finals. Serving first, she opened the match with two faults as nerves played a role in such an occasion. Later in the first set, she tactfully admitted that she “didn’t play my best.”

In the second set, she targeted Rybakina’s forehand and broke early for a 3-1 lead. As Rybakina looked to break right back as she did in the first set, Sabalenka held strong and overcame another double fault before holding on to take a 4-1 lead with an ace.

After Sabalenka’s impressive second set, the match settled into a tense third set. The pair went toe-to-toe at first, with both brave to shoot and hold on, but it was Sabalenka who finally broke through.

“I need a few more days to understand what happened,” Sabalenka told Eurosport.

“I am very happy and proud. There are many things in my head. I am no longer on this planet. It’s kind of a relief, I’ve been in the top 10 but I haven’t had a grand prize trophy yet and it was so hard to get it, every insult was so emotional.

“It’s a relief, it’s a joy, I’m proud of myself, everyone.”

When asked how she celebrates, Sabalenka laughs: “I probably ate everything I couldn’t this week.”

More to follow.

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