A “calmer” Sabalenka cries tears of joy in Melbourne after painful New York
MELBOURNE – Aryna Sabalenka did learn some important lessons after her last Grand Slam stumble. Lessons that on Saturday night she surely used to her advantage to win the first Grand Slam of her career.
In New York last September, she was a break up against Iga Swiatek in the third set of the semifinal. At crucial moments, her serve, her most important weapon, did not accompany her. She cried as much as she could and was unable to finish that press conference afterwards, wearing large, mirrored sunglasses that hid her puffy, reddened eyes.
“What did I learn? I learned that I have to be a little bit calmer on court and I don’t have to rush things. I just have to play my game, be calm, and believe in myself, that I can actually get it. I think during these two weeks I really was super calm on court, and I really believed in myself a lot, that my game will give me a lot of opportunities in each game to win this title”, Sabalenka told to reporters, cheering with a glass of champagne.
Sabalenka cried again, but because this time, her serve was there, and in moments of definition she knew how to withstand that immeasurable pressure you must feel when you are serving for your first major championship.
The Belarusian player arrived at the Rod Laver Arena in an unfamiliar stage for her, after having lost in the last three attempts to play the defining match of a major tournament. She was able to balance in her favor a battle that she started losing.
Her opponent, Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina, who did know what it was like to play a Grand Slam final, took the lead in the match after winning a first set of many aces and short points in 34 minutes.
Then the match found a little more rhythm and presented more rallies. It became more physical and the games went for more important points. Each remaining set lasted almost an hour. The “rookie” dominated, who was stronger in those moments and took advantage of the break points when needed.
It was 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 between the “bombardiers”, in a match that was expected in terms of style, but with an unpredictable result until the last game. With the Kazakhstan player saving three match points and pushing Sabalenka to the limit in a moment she had never experienced before: having to close a major tournament in her favor. “The last game, yeah, of course I was a little bit nervous. I was keep telling myself like, nobody tells you that it’s going to be easy, you just have to work for it, work for it till the last point I’m super happy that I was able to handle all those emotions and win this one”, she explained in press conference.
From Barty’s hands
With the roof of the stadium closed and the show of lights and music in the run-up to the final, Ash Barty appeared with the trophy she still “owned”.
The Australian received a standing ovation, one year after winning the 2022 Australian Open final. It was the last time the former number one competed on a court. Once retired, she left the lead to Swiatek who dominated tennis from then on without counterweight, although the Polish could not ratify that domination in Melbourne.
Sabalenka launched the missiles stronger than the Wimbledon champion, who failed to match precisely the Australian as reigning champion in both London and Melbourne.
The Belarusian thus manages to say goodbye to the ghosts of the past. The tears in Australia have a different flavor to those left in New York.