Aryna Sabalenka shows why she shouldn’t be counted out for top honours

Delight for Aryna Sabalenka Credit: Alamy
Delight for Aryna Sabalenka Credit: Alamy

Aryna Sabalenka has proven her championship mettle once again after a barren run in WTA Tour finals in 2022.

Sabalenka had lost the last three of her championship matches on the tour heading into her match against qualifier Linda Noskova.

Sabalenka won her 11th career singles title with a 6-3, 7-6(4) victory that ended a 19-month wait to re-enter the winner’s circle.

“I think I’m a different player right now,” Sabalenka said after her win, when asked to reflect on her time between titles.

“Maybe a little bit smarter, a little bit calmer on court. Just a little bit of everything changed.”

Despite her struggles to win titles, Sabalenka was consistent enough in 2022 to reach the WTA Tour finals and whilst there showed she could hang with the best in the business.

Sabalenka’s win is a timely reminder that she shouldn’t be forgotten when discussing potential Grand Slam winners.

The Belarusian made it all the way to the final in Forth Worth but met with defeat.

However as 2023 gets underway she appears to have banished any championship match demons.

Sabalenka did not drop a set all week and delivered another metronomic performance in the 1-hour and 43-minute final in Adelaide.

Interestingly, this is the third time that Sabalenka has won the first event of a WTA Tour season having done the same in 2019 and 2021 when she bagged titles in Shenzen and Abu Dhabi.

For 18-year-old World No 102 Noskova the final was a breakthrough moment even if she wasn’t able to bag the title.

Noskova became the youngest finalist at a WTA 500-level event or higher since Caroline Wozniacki won the 2008 New Haven title aged 18 years and 43 days.

She also claimed her first and second Top ten wins during her run in the South Australian capital, toppling Daria Kasatkina and Ons Jabeur during the event.

Ultimately Sabalenka’s powerful serve proved the difference-maker with the World No 5 snatching 93 per cent of points when she was able to get her first delivery in.

Sabalenka also hit 12 aces and saved all three break points she faced in the match.

“I think my serve helped me a lot, today especially,” Sabalenka said. “I think I didn’t give her much opportunities on my serve. I was able to put her under pressure on her serve. So I think that’s why I won today.”

Sabalenka fell just short of breaking into the top four ahead of the Australian Open draw, with Caroline Garcia doing enough at the United Cup to retain the World No 4 ranking.

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