Welcome to Sportstar’s highlights of the women’s singles final of the Australian Open 2023 between Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. This was Nihit Sachdeva taking you through the action as it unfolded at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne.
That’s it from the women’s final. Do join us tomorrow for the men’s final between Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas!
Sabalenka: “I want to thank my team, of course. The craziest team on Tour, I’d say. You guys deserve this trophy. It’s more about you than about me. I love you!”
Now, time for the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Trophy to be presented to the champion - Aryna Sabalenka.
Rybakina congratulates Sabalenka on the win - “I know how hard you’ve worked, & also your team, so just congratulations and hopefully we’re going to have many more battles.”
First up, Elena Rybakina receives the runner-up trophy from 12-time Grand Slam champion Billie Jean King.
Time for the presentation ceremony.
What a story! After struggling with double faults last year, Aryna Sabalenka has dominated the 2023 season winning eleven straight matches for two titles in the first month with the second of them being her maiden Grand Slam title.
THIRD SET (* denotes server)
Sabalenka* 6-4 Rybakina - Sabalenka serving for the title. Crosscourt backhand return from Rybakina goes wide. Sabalenka nets a crosscourt forehand - 15-all. Deep forehand return from Rybakina finds Sabalenka in an awkward position and she hits the forehand wide - 30-15. Rybakina with an unforced error, a crosscourt forehand gone long, and it is 30-all. A T ace and Sabalenka has a championship point. And she has committed a double fault. Would you believe it? Well, there’s another chance as she hits a crosscourt forehand winner. Can she do it this time? No, she can! A crosscourt forehand from the fifth seed lands wide - deuce again. Rybakina’s backhand lands just on the baseline, Sabalenka responds a bit late and provides a short ball which Rybakina converts with a crosscourt forehand winner. Break point for Rybakina. Wide service winner into the ad court from Sabalenka - deuce again. Crosscourt forehand from Rybakina finds the net chord and Sabalenka has a third championship point! And she has again overhit a backhand. Rybakina has saved three match points. Big first serve down the T and Sabalenka finishes the point with a forehand winner down the line to earn 4th championship point. Rybakina hits a forehand long in a five-shot rally and Aryna Sabalenka is the 2023 Australian Open champion!!!!
Sabalenka 5-4 Rybakina* - Rybakina serving to stay in the set and the match. Rybakina mishits a crosscourt forehand - 15-all. Sabalenka’s forehand return lands just beyond the baseline, Rybakina leads 30-15. Big first serve down the middle draws a heavy forehand return from Sabalenka. Two game points for Rybakina. Sabalenka makes it 30-40 after Rybakina nets a sliced forehand. Rybakina closes the game with a forehand winner down the line.
Sabalenka* 5-3 Rybakina - Wide serve into the deuce court and Rybakina responds with a forehand return winner down the line. Big serve down the middle and this time Rybakina’s forehand return goes out - 15-all. Wide serve into the deuce court and another heavy forehand return from Rybakina. Crosscourt forehand from Rybakina goes wide and Sabalenka has two game points. Sabalenka overhits a crosscourt forehand and wastes one chance - 40-30. Slow second serve and Rybakina hits a crunch forehand winner down the line - deuce. Big wide service winner into the deuce court from Sabalenka to earn her third game point. Backhand from Sabalenka goes wide after Rybakina hits a deep forehand return down the middle - deuce. T serve from Sabalenka and Rybakina’s backhand return is out - fourth game point for the fifth seed. Ace wide into the ad court. Sabalenka consolidates the break!!!!
Sabalenka 4-3 Rybakina* - Rybakina 30-0 up very quickly. Sabalenka back level at 30-all with a forehand winner down the line. A crosscourt forehand winner from Sabalenka and she has a break point now! Big wide serve into the ad court and Sabalenka nets the backhand return - deuce. Rybakina overcooks a backhand and faces another break point. Another big first serve, this time down the T, and Sabalenka hits the forehand return long- deuce again. Wide serve into the deuce court draws a heavy forehand return from the Belarusian. Game point for Rybakina. Relentless hitting from Sabalenka and she wins the point with a backhand down the line - deuce No. 3. Third break point for Sabalenka after Rybakina nets a crosscourt backhand. Sabalenka gets the break with an overhead smash down the middle!
Sabalenka has lead the ace queen tonight. Unbelievable.
Sabalenka* 3-3 Rybakina - Big first serve down the T followed by a crosscourt forehand from the net - Sabalenka makes it 15-all. A T ace - 30-15. Ace wide into the ad court - 40-15. Rybakina nets a forehand return. Sabalenka holds comfortably.
Sabalenka 2-3 Rybakina* - Rybakina’s crosscourt forehand just catches the baseline. An inside-out forehand from Rybakina and she is 30-0 up. Double fault from Rybakina, her first of the match. Is she finally feeling the pressure? Now a forehand from Rybakina goes long - 30-all. Forehand winner down the line from Sabalenka earns her a break point. Is this the moment? Strong first serve from Rybakina and the forehand return from Sabalenka is heavy - deuce. Intelligent body serve from Rybakina and she has a game point. Rybakina had the short ball after Sabalenka’s return but hits the crosscourt forehand long - deuce again. Wide serve into the deuce court followed by a crosscourt backhand into the ad court - another game point. Rybakina defends as well as she can but eventually, Sabalenka hits an inside-out forehand winner - deuce again. Body serve followed by a backhand down the line which just finds the baseline - Rybakina with another chance to close the game. Backhand return from Sabalenka finds the net. Rybakina holds. This could prove to be a very important game in the context of this match.
Sabalenka* 2-2 Rybakina - Forehand winner down the line from Rybakina as Sabalenka anticipates a crosscourt one. Heavy backhand return from Rybakina - 15-all. Big serve down the middle and yet again, backhand return from Rybakina is long. Backhand crosscourt winner from Sabalenka and she is 40-15 up. Sabalenka closes the game with a backhand pass.
Sabalenka 1-2 Rybakina* - Strong crosscourt forehand return from Sabalenka on second serve draws a heavy forehand from Rybakina - 0-15. Forehand return from Sabalenka lands just beyond the baseline - 15-all. Ace wide into the deuce court - Rybakina up 30-15. Sabalenka makes it 30-all as Rybakina makes a forced backhand error after a deep return from the fifth-seeded Belarusian. Inside-out backhand winner from Rybakina takes her 40-30. Crosscourt forehand into the net from Sabalenka and Rybakina holds.
Sabalenka* 1-1 Rybakina - The fifth-seeded Belarusian starts her opening service game in the decider strongly and takes a 40-0 lead quickly. Holds.
Sabalenka 0-1 Rybakina* - Rybakina to serve first in the decider. Up 40-0 in no time. Sabalenka draws a backhand error from Rybakina. Sabalenka takes it to 30-40 but Rybakina manages to hold with a service winner down the T.
A one-set shoot-off to decide the winner of the 2023 Australian Open. There could not have been a better script.
SECOND SET (* denotes server)
Sabalenka* 6-3 Rybakina - Wide second serve into the deuce court from Sabalenka and forehand return from Rybakina is long. Deep backhand crosscourt return from Rybakina draws a shot ball from Sabalenka and Rybakina finishes the point with a crosscourt forehand winner - 15-all. Wide serve into the deuce court and yet again, Rybakina’s forehand return is beyond the baseline. Rybakina reads the crosscourt drop shot from Sabalenka and finishes the point with a backhand winner down the line - 30-all. A T ace from Sabalenka and she has her third set point. A T ace on second serve and Sabalenka wins second set 6-3!
Sabalenka 5-3 Rybakina* - Rybakina serving to stay in the set. The Kazakh misses the inner sideline by a whisker as she goes for an inside-out backhand. Deep backhand return from Sabalenka and Rybakina’s backhand in reply is well long. Sabalenka up 30-15. A crunch inside-out forehand return winner from Sabalenka on second serve. Two set points. Rybakina saves first with a T ace. Rybakina comes up with an important backhand winner down the line to save the second set point - deuce. A 13-shot rally and Rybakina comes out on top with a brilliant half volley to earn a game point. Sabalenka draws a forehand error from Rybakina - deuce again. Rybakina holds. Sabalenka will have to serve for the set.
Sabalenka* 5-2 Rybakina - Forehand return winner down the line from Rybakina. Ace wide into the ad court from Sabalenka - 15-all. A much more comfortable service hold for Sabalenka. Closer to the finish line in this second set.
Sabalenka 4-2 Rybakina* - Rybakina begins with a T ace. Deep backhand return from Sabalenka followed by a crosscourt backhand winner - 15-all. Rybakina’s sliced forehand allows Sabalenka to rush and hit a glorious backhand winner down the line to go 30-15 up. Rybakina overhits a backhand and faces two break points. Big first serve down the T from Rybakina and Sabalenka’s backhand return lands only on her side of the net. Forehand return from Sabalenka goes long and Rybakina saves the second break point - deuce. Heavy hitting from both players in an 11-shot rally and it is Sabalenka who loses the point with an overhit forehand. Rybakina reads the inside-out forehand of Sabalenka but fails to put the backhand into the open court - deuce again. A sublime backhand winner down the line from Sabalenka from the baseline to earn her third break point in this game. Sabalenka attacks the second serve but ends up hitting the backhand return with a little more power than she would have liked - deuce again. Wide serve into the deuce court from Rybakina draws a forehand error from the fifth seed. Second serve and this time Sabalenka hits the backhand return winner down the line perfectly - deuce No. 4. Rybakina, somehow, manages to hold service in an eight-minute long game as Sabalenka hits a backhand return wide.
Sabalenka* 4-1 Rybakina - Sabalenka serving to consolidate the break but Rybakina puts pressure and is up 30-15. Rybakina miscalculates the forehand slice shot from Sabalenka and nets the drop shot it. Sabalenka up 40-30 with a simple backhand winner down the line. Forehand from Sabalenka goes well wide and it is deuce. Double fault from the Belarusian and Rybakina has a chance to break back straight away. Slow second serve, Rybakina hits the backhand return crosscourt and Sabalenka closes the point with a backhand winner down the line to save the break point - deuce again. Rybakina does well to return the wide serve from Sabalenka but then hits a crosscourt backhand wide. Sabalenka nets a backhand return and it is deuce again. Sabalenka with another chance to close the game as she calmly hits a crosscourt smash after a defensive lob from Rybakina. Ace wide into the ad court and Sabalenka consolidates the break!
Sabalenka 3-1 Rybakina* - Strong forehand down the line from Rybakina and Sabalenka’s backhand return lands on her side of the court - 15-15. Body serve from the Kazakh and the forehand return from Sabalenka is long. Rybakina does wel to hit back two powerful forehand down the line and crosscourt backhand returns from the Belarusian but the third time, she can’t as the fifth seed rushes to the net and finishes the point with a forehand volley. A backhand forced error from Rybakina. Wide ace into the ad court and Rybakina saves a break point. Rybakina nets a crosscourt forehand and Sabalenka has her second break point of the game. Deep backhand return from Sabalenka and Rybakina overcooks the forehand in response. Sabalenka gets the break!
Sabalenka* 2-1 Rybakina - Chance for Rybakina as Sabalenka overhits a forehand and the score is now 30-all. Backhand forced error from Rybakina. Sabalenka has a game point but it goes away as she overcooks another forehand - deuce. A T ace from the fifth seed. Just when she needed. Another T ace to close the game. Wow!
Sabalenka 1-1 Rybakina* - Rybakina’s first service game of the second set. Rybakina hangs on in the rally despite weak backhand shots but then converts the opportunity to hit a delightful drop shot and clinch the point. A crosscourt forehand winner from Sabalenka finds the inner sideline - 15-all. Good defensive lob from Sabalenka to push Rybakina back and then win the point with a powerful crosscourt backhand return. Wide service winner into the ad court from Rybakina - 30-all. Slow second serve down the middle and Sabalenka nets the backhand return. Game point for Rybakina. Forehand down the line return winner from Sabalenka on Rybakina’s first serve down the middle. That’s something. Crosscourt forehand from Sabalenka, this time, falls on the wrong side of the inner sideline. Wide service winner into the ad court. Rybakina holds.
Sabalenka* 1-0 Rybakina - Sabalenka to serve first in the second set. Begins with an ace wide into the deuce court. An unforced error on the backhand from Sabalenka - 15-all. An inside-out forehand winner from the Kazakh and she is up 30-15. A crosscourt forehand from Sabalenka goes long and she now faces two break points. Rybakina with a weird forehand return on body serve from Sabalenka and the fifth seed finishes it with a crosscourt forehand winner from the net. Sabalenka saves the second break point as well as she draws a forehand error from Rybakina. Wide service winner into the deuce court. Excellent crosscourt forehand from Sabalenka, Rybakina is a little late in getting to it and hence, her forehand return does not even find the court.
FIRST SET (* denotes server)
Sabalenka 4-6 Rybakina* - Rybakina serving for the set. Backhand from Sabalenka just misses the inner sideline and Rybakina leads 15-0. Yet again, a deep crosscourt backhand from Rybakina and the backhand from Sabalenka in response finds only the net - 30-0. Rybakina wrongfoots Sabalenka and draws a heavy forehand to go 40-0 up and earns three set points. A T serve and forehand return from Sabalenka is into the net. Rybakina takes the opening set 6-4! Also, that is the first set Sabalenka has dropped not only in this Australian Open but this 2023 season as well!
Sabalenka* 4-5 Rybakina - Sabalenka, just after getting the break back, is in trouble as a double fault means she is 0-30 down. Wide serve into the deuce court followed by a forehand winner down the ad court - 15-30. Deep backhand return from Rybakina, Sabalenka not in perfect position and hence, nets the backhand to go 15-40 down. Two break points for Rybakina. Wide serve into the deuce court and forehand return from Rybakina is long. One more break point. Double fault from Sabalenka and Rybakina is back up by a break.
Sabalenka 4-4 Rybakina* - Rybakina to serve. Sabalenka manages to get the return in on the first serve of the Kazakh and finishes the 8-shot rally with a crosscourt smash. Deep crosscourt backhand return from Sabalenka lands right at Rybakina’s feet and the backhand from the Wimbledon champion in return finds the net. Forehand down the line from Rybakina goes wide and she is 0-40 down. Three break points for Sabalenka. Rybakina saves one with a smart body serve winner. Sabalenka breaks back with a backhand pass down the line after Rybakina fails to do enough with her backhand slice and rushes to the net.
Sabalenka* 3-4 Rybakina - Yet another double fault from Sabalenka and she is 15-30 down. Follows it up with an ace wide into the ad court. Sabalenka hangs on in the 13-shot rally and eventually, the error comes from a Rybakina backhand - 40-30. Superb second serve down the T to set up a crosscourt backhand winner. Sabalenka holds.
Sabalenka 2-4 Rybakina* - An ace wide into the ad court and Rybakina is up 30-0. Crosscourt backhand return from Sabalenka is well wide and Rybakina has three game points. A T ace to close the game from the Kazakh.
Sabalenka* 2-3 Rybakina - Sabalenka, once again, takes up a 40-0 lead but this time, manages to hold. The nerves seem to have settled now.
Sabalenka 1-3 Rybakina* - Reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina up 40-0 in no time. Sabalenka draws an error from a crosscourt forehand of Rybakina. Rybakina consolidates the break as a crosscourt backhand from Sabalenka goes wide.
Sabalenka* 1-2 Rybakina - Sabalenka races to a 40-0 lead quickly featuring two aces. Follows it up with a double fault before Rybakina hits a crosscourt forehand pass winner to make it 30-40. A crosscourt backhand from Sabalenka goes long and all of a sudden, it is deuce. Another double fault from the fifth seed and she is facing a break point. Forehand goes long from Sabalenka and Rybakina breaks!
Sabalenka 1-1 Rybakina* - Rybakina responds in style. Three aces for an easy hold.
Sabalenka* 1-0 Rybakina - Sabalenka begins with a double fault but then hits two aces on her way to a comfortable service hold.
2:07PM - Here we go. Rybakina and Sabalenka make their way to the Rod Laver Arena through the ‘Walk of Champions.’
2PM - Live visuals from the Rod Laver Arena and the Daphne Akhurst trophy has been brought onto the court by none other than last year’s champion Ash Barty!
1:55PM - Just a few minutes to go before the two finalists make their way to the court. If Rybakina wins today, she’ll be the first Kazakh woman to win the Australian Open. If Sabalenka emerges victorious, she’ll be the first ‘neutral’ Grand Slam champion.
1:45PM - Top serve speeds -
Rybakina - 195 km/h (1st serve)
Sabalenka - 193 km/h (2nd serve)
1:40PM - Not much to separate these two
1:35PM - Sabalenka’s road to the final
- ⦿ Semifinal: Beat Magda Linette (POL) 7-6 (1), 6-2
- ⦿ Quarterfinal: Beat Donna Vekic (CRO) 6-3, 6-2
- ⦿ Fourth Round: Beat  Belinda Bencic (SUI) 7-5, 6-2
- ⦿ Third Round: Beat  Elise Mertens (BEL) 6-2, 6-3
- ⦿ Second Round: Beat Shelby Rogers (USA) 6-3, 6-1
- ⦿ First Round: Beat Tereza Martincova (CZE) 6-1, 6-4
1:30PM - Rybakina’s road to the final
- ⦿ Semifinals: Beat  Victoria Azarenka (BLR) 7-6 (4), 6-3
- ⦿ Quarterfinals: Beat  Jelena Ostapenko (LAT) 6-2, 6-4
- ⦿ Fourth Round: Beat  Iga Swiatek (POL) 6-4, 6-4
- ⦿ Third Round: Beat  Danielle Collins (USA) 6-2, 5-7, 6-2
- ⦿ Second Round: Beat Kaja Juvan (SLO) 6-2, 6-1
- ⦿ First Round: Beat Elisabetta Cocciaretto (ITA) 7-5, 6-3
1:25PM - Previous meetings:
2021 Wimbledon, Round of 16: Sabalenka won 6-3, 4-6, 6-3
2021 Abu Dhabi, Quarterfinal: Sabalenka won 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
2019 Wuhan, Quarterfinal: Sabalenka won 6-3, 1-6, 6-1
1:20PM - HEAD-TO-HEAD RECORD
Player: 3 | Sabalenka: 3 | Rybakina: 0
1:15PM - Rybakina and Sabalenka have been in superb form at this year’s Australian Open. While the former has impressed with her serve, the latter has dominated her opponents with her power. A thrilling final is on the cards. Live action begins at 2PM. Stay tuned for all the build-up!
PREVIEW (via Reuters)
Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina began her Australian Open campaign on the outer courts at Melbourne Park but the 22nd seed is now just one step away from winning her second major, with only fellow big-hitter Aryna Sabalenka standing in her way.
Russian-born Rybakina switched allegiance to Kazakhstan in 2018 to get more financial support and went on to become the country’s first major singles champion at the All England Club, where she beat Tunisian Ons Jabeur in the final.
While that victory brought prestige and financial reward, it did not boost her up the rankings.
The WTA stripped Wimbledon of ranking points for the tournament after organisers imposed a ban on Russian and Belarusian players due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”.
Rybakina would have climbed into the top 10 had the ranking points been available but she has proved she belongs in the spotlight at Melbourne Park, knocking out three Grand Slam champions en route to this year’s title clash.
Playing flawless tennis and showing little emotion, the 23-year-old dismissed last year’s runner-up Danielle Collins before eliminating title favourite Iga Swiatek, former Roland Garros winner Jelena Ostapenko and two-times Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka.
“I think it was a great challenge for me because for sure, they have experience of winning Grand Slams, so it was nothing new for them,” Rybakina, who beat Azarenka 7-6(4), 6-3 in the semifinals, said.
“This time I would say that it was a bit easier compared to Wimbledon when I was playing for the first time the quarters, semis, final.
“For sure they’re very experienced players. I knew I have to focus on every point. I think in the end I did well.”
Belarusian Sabalenka finally looks to be delivering on years of promise and will be making her first appearance in a Grand Slam final after falling at the semi-final stage three times.
The powerful fifth seed defeated unheralded Pole Magda Linette 7-6(1) 6-2 to reach Saturday’s title match at Rod Laver Arena and will look to fight fire with fire against Rybakina.
Sabalenka, who has notched up 10 successive straight-sets victories this year, including a run to the Adelaide title, was unable to compete at Wimbledon due to the ban and said she only watched some of it on TV.
“I was feeling really bad about that (ban) and didn’t watch Wimbledon at all,” the 24-year-old said.
“I mean, little bit the final because I was working out in the gym. I saw a bit. It was great tennis.”
With Russian and Belarusian players only allowed to compete as individual athletes without national affiliation at Melbourne Park, Sabalenka could become the first neutral athlete to win a Grand Slam.
“Let’s talk about that if I win it,” she said. “I don’t like to speak about ‘if’. I just want to work for it, do my best.
“If I win, you can ask that question and I will answer.”