Aryna Sabalenka dedicates Australian Open trophy to her ‘crazy’ team

Aryna Sabalenka

Aryna Sabalenka made a beeline for her player’s box after clinching the Australian Open trophy and they were the first people she thanked as she accepted her maiden Grand Slam trophy.

Sabalenka is unbeaten in 2023, although she dropped a set for the first time in her Australian Open final triumph.

She thanked her team for their tireless work, which has borne fruit in the form of technical improvements to her game.

“I’m still shaking and super nervous,” Sabalenka said.

“My team — the craziest team on tour, I would say. We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs the last year. We worked so hard. You guys deserve this trophy, it’s more about you than me.

“To be honest, I was a little bit swearing – it’s crazy,” she said later.

“These guys are like my family, you know. We’ve been through really tough times and they’ve been there for me, they supported me in the most tough moments.

“I felt like responsibility in front of them, you know, for this trophy. I felt like these guys deserve it and I was just crying because of everything.”

Sabalenka stayed calm despite dropping a tight first set.

“First set, I was a little bit nervous, and she was playing unbelievable tennis,” she said.

“I would say that tactically, I didn’t play my best and I didn’t play right.

“In the second set, I had to try something else, and yeah, I changed it a little bit – tried to push her a little bit more on her forehand and make her move, put her under pressure on her serve. That worked brilliantly.”

However it has come about, the improvements in Sabalenka’s game are marked as several pundits have pointed out.

Sabalenka has been open about a change in her mindset around the game as well, earning praise for keeping her cool in this Australian Open run.

Seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander was among those waxing on Sabalenka’s progress.

“The fact that she had to serve it out as well and all the talk about her second serve. It was strong nerve-wise for her to hold on there,” Wilander said on the Eurosport broadcast.

“It’s obviously so emotional. I think Sabalenka, from the first time we saw her, she always seemed to have the mentality that she would win majors. But she sort of went a little bit crazy sometimes when she was in semis in Slams and you wondered if this was ever going to come.

“I think she did so so well being so aggressive because if she wasn’t aggressive, Rybakina would control everything. I think Sabalenka did a great job to control the points when the ball was in play and that made the difference even though there weren’t that many long rallies.

“For the last six months, she couldn’t serve at all and was serving underhand but for her to get through that. I think she looks in better shape somehow, she moves better. It seems like her serve problems have projected her to a different part in her career and it’s working.”

READ MORE: Aryna Sabalenka proves doubters wrong with emotional Grand Slam triumph