Belarusian star claims maiden Grand Slam title

Aryna Sabalenka defeated Elena Rybakina to win the Australian Open

Sabalenka won a first major prize of her career. ©  Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

Aryna Sabalenka won the first Grand Slam title of her career as the Belarusian fought back from one set down to defeat Elena Rybakina in a pulsating Australian Open final on Saturday.

Appearing in a maiden major final, fifth seed Sabalenka found herself behind after an imposing start from Rybakina saw the reigning Wimbledon champion claim the opening set 6-4. But Sabalenka gradually exerted her own big-hitting game and leveled the match by taking the second set 6-3.

Both players continued to produce some dazzling shot-making at Rod Laver Arena in a battle befitting the occasion. It was Sabalenka who made the crucial move by breaking Rybakina’s serve in game seven of the decisive set. Despite a wobble as she saw three match points slip away, Sabalenka held her never to serve out the final set 6-4 and take the title with it.

Sabalenka collapsed in joy on court after sealing the title. ©  Darrian Traynor / Getty Images

said Sabalenka after she was handed the Daphne Akhurst trophy by US tennis icon Billie Jean King.

added the Minsk-born Sabalenka, who was competing at the tournament under ‘neutral’ status due to the ongoing sanctions placed on many Russian and Belarusian athletes because of the conflict in Ukraine.

Rybakina played her part in a thrilling final. ©  Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

said the gracious Rybakina in her own post-match comments. Seeded 22nd in Melbourne, Rybakina will now make her debut in the world top ten as a result of her run to the final.

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