2023 Australian Open women’s final info, form, H2H, preview: Elena Rybakina vs Aryna Sabalenka
The finalists of the 2023 Australian Open women’s final are far from surprise packages, but few would have predicted an Elena Rybakina vs Aryna Sabalenka match-up at the start of the tournament.
It will be a battle of power tennis on Rod Laver Arena and if both players play to their full potential it could turn into a real slugfest.
Who will come out on top come Saturday evening?
World ranking: 25
Career-high ranking: 12
Career singles titles: 3
Grand Slam singles titles: 1
Career prize money: $6,389,853
After becoming the first Kazakh player to a win a Grand Slam when she lifted the Wimbledon trophy, Rybakina is looking to double up and follow in Ashleigh Barty’s footsteps by winning the Venus Rosewater Dish and the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in back-to-back seasons.
3 – Elena Rybakina is the first female player to defeat 3 former Grand Slam champions (Iga Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka) in single edition of the Australian Open since Jennifer Capriati in 2001 (Hingis, Davenport and Seles). Shape.@WTA_insider @WTA | #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/DD5NbBy7Pl
— OptaAce (@OptaAce) January 26, 2023
World ranking: 5
Career-high ranking: 2
Career singles titles: 12
Grand Slam singles titles: 0
Career prize money: $12,302,010
On the other side of the net will be Sabalenka, who is looking for her maiden Grand Slam title. In fact the Belarusian is playing in her maiden major final following three semi-final appearances.
There’s nothing like it: that final feeling 🥳#luzhoulaojiao • @guojiao_1573 • #AusOpen • #AO2023 @wwos • @espn • @Eurosport • @wowowtennis pic.twitter.com/nWd134dpQZ
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 26, 2023
Elena Rybakina’s path to the Australian Open final
The reigning Wimbledon champion has dropped only one set en route to the final and, when you consider some of the opponents she has faced, then it makes it even more impressive.
She started Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Kaja Juvan before going the distance against Danielle Collins in the third round after losing the second set.
Next up was a clinical 6-4, 6-4 win over world No 1 and favourite Iga Swiatek before she brushed aside another Grand Slam champion in Jelena Ostapenko 6-2, 6-4.
Victoria Azarenka played lights out tennis to see off third seed Jessica Pegula in the quarter-final, but Rybakina dealt with her in brilliant fashion to win their semi-final 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.
Aryna Sabalenka’s path to the Australian Open final
Aryna Sabalenka has been in imperious form throughout the season-opening Grand Slam as she is yet to drop a set in the tournament.
The Belarusian has dropped an average of just 5.6 games per match during her six matches so far. She has accounted for the exits of Tereza Martincova, Shelby Rogers, Elise Mertens, Belinda Bencic, Donna Vekic and Magda Lynette.
First-time Grand Slam semi-finalist Lynette was the only player to take her to a tie-breaker.
Elena Rybakina’s form tailed off at the backend of the 2022 season and she didn’t have the most inspiring start to the 2023 campaign as she lost in the round of 16 at the Adelaide International 1 and the round of 32 at the Adelaide International 2.
Last year she reached three finals with Wimbledon her only success. In fact so far she has played 10 finals and won only three titles with Bucharest 2019 and Hobart 2020 her other singles titles.
It has been a different Sabalenka this year as after losing the WTA Finals final against Caroline Garcia in November last year, she is yet to drop set let alone lose a match.
She lifted the Adelaide International 1 trophy – although she only won four matches and didn’t face any seeded players – and is now up to 10-0 for the year after her run to the Melbourne Park final.
Elena Rybakina vs Aryna Sabalenka head-to-head
It does not make pretty reading for Elena Rybakina as she has played three times against Aryna Sabalenka and has lost all three matches, but the good news for the 23-year-old is that all three matches have gone the distance.
Their first encounter was in the Wuhan quarter-final in 2019 with Sabelanka winning 6-3, 1-6, 6-1. Next was a quarter-final in Abu Dhabi in 2021 and the result was the same, but the scoreline read 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 while their final encounter at Wimbledon 2021 was a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 win for the Belarusian.
Elena Rybakina will make her Top 10 debut after the #AusOpen. She can rise to as high a No.8 if she wins the title on Saturday.
By advancing to her 1st major final, Aryna Sabalenka will return to World No.2.
— WTA Insider (@WTA_insider) January 26, 2023
What they’ve said
“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. For me this time I would say it was a bit easier also compared to Wimbledon when I was playing for the first time quarters, semis, final. For sure they’re very experienced players. I knew that I have to focus on every point. I think in the end I did real well.” – Rybakina
“It’s going to be tough battle. I think as today maybe I will not have to serve that big, that fast, so it doesn’t really matter the speed. It’s important to have a good placement on the serve.” Rybakina on facing Sabalenka
“Well, it’s not going to make things easier. It’s a final. It’s not going to be easy match, you know? But I just happy that I made this, like, next step. I know that I have to work for that title.” – Sabalenka
“I don’t know. Maybe you tell me what you think (laughter). Probably. I think it’s just different. Like she play a little bit, like, flat, I maybe spin a little bit more. I think that’s the different.” Sabalenka on the difference between her game and Rybakina’s game
Aryna Sabalenka is the slight favourite based on their head-to-head encounters and her blistering form so far this year, but overcoming the nerves of playing your maiden Grand Slam final could see her lose that edge.
The fifth seed won the first set in all three of their matches so if Rybakina does get her nose in front it could make for an interesting spectacle.
Rybakina on the other hand has proved that she deals well with nerves on the big stage. At Wimbledon she came from a set down to defeat Ons Jabeur. The Kazakh star has a big booming serve and brilliant, clean groundstrokes.
Sabalenka, on the other hand, has struggled with her serve over the past few years, but that has not been a problem during the fortnight at Melbourne Park. However, the big question is whether or not her serve will still work when she feels a bit of pressure or finds herself behind on the scoreboard.
The advantage of having played in Grand Slam final and having won one may just be enough for Rybakina to edge the final.
READ MORE: Elena Rybakina: Why the quiet girl is set to dominate Grand Slam tennis
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