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Sabalenka wins the Australian Open: The Lioness of Melbourne


Powerful, persistent, nervous and loud: Aryna Sabalenka wins her first Grand Slam title in Australia. A balloon helped in the preparation, opponent Elena Rybakina knocked herself out.

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Two that came together: Aryna Sabalenka and the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup


The match of the tournament:

When does it ever happen that the last match of a long tennis tournament is really the best in terms of quality?

The final of this Australian Open between Aryna Sabalenka and Elena Rybakina was a spectacle from the first point to the last.

Both players produced an infinite number of »winners«.

These are the free points that are so important in tennis.

There were many turns and beautiful rallies.

The match was balanced until the end, a winner was not to be found for a long time.

In fact, both deserved to win.

The result:

Aryna Sabalenka won the Melbourne final 4:6, 6:3 and 6:4 against Elena Rybakina.

For the Belarusian, it is the first title in a four major Grand Slam tournament.

Kazakh Rybakina won Wimbledon last year.

At first you could tell that she had this experience.

She came into this high quality match better.

Was less nervous too.

But Sabalenka bit into it.

And didn't let go until the end.

The 24-year-old has now won eleven titles - all eleven on fast hard court documents.

For the victory she collects 1.94 million euros.

In the world rankings, Sabalenka climbs from 5th to 2nd place. Iga Świątek, who lost to Rybakina in the round of 16 at the Australian Open, remains first.

Warming up with balloons:

That was unusual: Sabalenka pushed a balloon back and forth with her fitness coach Jason Stacy just before the "walk-on-court".

Normally, the pros use tennis balls or even smaller playground equipment for the final sharpening of hand-eye coordination.

But perhaps this decelerated variation was just right for the high-risk player Sabalenka.

Slow down again before the banging starts.

Well roared, lioness:

Before this women's final at the Australian Open, many had expected that it would be a kind of thunderstorm.

It was, but not only.

Sabalenka and Rybakina both heaved the balls over the net with a lot of power.

Sabalenka brought even more speed with her: She managed an unbelievable 51 winners and 17 aces.

These are the values ​​of a Grand Slam champion.

In addition, the Belarusian showed a great deal of willpower.

She worked her way into the final and sometimes yelled loudly on the court. Sabalenka is an emotional player.

It's no coincidence that she has a lion's head tattooed on her left forearm.

Rybakina is completely different, who always comes across as calm and level-headed.

In the game, however, she had more to offer.

The 23-year-old also showed her good touch and advanced to the net.

Actually, as a player, she is more variable than Sabalenka.

In the Melbourne final, however, this could only be observed in the first one and a half sets.

Toilet break takes the moment:

The first set went by quickly.

It only lasted a little over half an hour.

After winning the set 6: 4, Rybakina was, as tennis pros say, fully "in the zone".

The momentum was now on their side.

you actually thought that she wanted to continue playing as quickly as possible after the change of sides - to keep the rhythm.

But the opposite happened.

The Kazakh, who was born in Moscow, briefly asked the chair referee if she could leave the seat for a bathroom break.

She then walked rather leisurely out of the Rod Laver Arena.

Sabalenka followed her.

After the break it was a different match.

Maybe Rybakina will be annoyed afterwards that she didn't continue playing.

Tennis is and will remain a »mind game«.

Thinking too much is never good.

The longer the rallies, the better for Sabalenka:

Rybakina was always looking for quick points.

That worked well for a long time, but over time her opponent had more effective answers to the Wimbledon champion's serves.

Sabalenka could not return 64% of her first serves in the first set.

But the rate kept falling.

This resulted in longer rallies.

The Belarusian was better prepared for this.

In the end she also seemed physically fitter, scraped a lot of balls out of the corners and thus kept the rallies open.

Not infrequently, Sabalenka ended this with her forehand and powerful punches along the line.

Resilience, a new strength:

The new world number two, who used to struggle with her nerves, not only played extremely consistently and focused in this final of the Australian Open.

In eleven games of the new year she has lost only one set, it was on Saturday in the final against Rybakina.

Incidentally, the 24-year-old no longer seeks professional help in the mental area, "I'm my own psychologist," Sabalenka once said with a laugh on the sidelines of the tournament.

»I understood that nobody but myself can help me.« Her new mental resilience was also admired several times in the final.

Most clearly at the very end.

The service game of her life:

Reserving a match is one of the most psychologically demanding tests that tennis has to offer.

And now imagine that you have this challenge in front of you in your first Grand Slam final.

Sabalenka had made the important break against Rybakina in the middle of the third set.

Now she led 5:4 and served to win the tournament.

It crackled in the Rod Laver Arena.

Great applause erupted.

A little later: 40:30, first match point.

Sabalenka missed the first chance with a simple forehand ball hit behind the baseline.

Rybakina even got a breakball shortly afterwards.

This time Sabalenke fended off the impending misfortune with a well-placed first serve.

It was an enormous pressure situation for the Belarusian,

who earned more match points and finally used the fourth to win the game.

She then fell to the ground, put both hands in front of her face - and cried tears of happiness.

Source: spiegel

All sports articles on 2023-01-28

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