“I have zero control on it” – Sabalenka on flag controversy at Aus Open
Follow live updates from the Australian Open women’s final as Elena Rybakina plays Aryna Sabalenka for the first grand slam title of the year. In a battle of two powerful big-hitters, Wimbledon champion Rybakina is aiming to add a second grand slam title in six months while Sabalenka, who is yet to drop a set so far this tournament, will be playing in her first major final.
The 23-year-old Rybakina defeated grand slam champions in world No 1 Iga Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka to reach the Australian Open final for the first time. The Kazakh, who was born in Moscow, said she was not treated like a grand slam winner following her Wimbledon win last summer but there will be no disputing her status if she can win a second major title on the Rod Laver Arena.
Sabalenka, meanwhile, put struggles with her serve and mentality behind her to enter the season in red-hot form. The Belarusian, who is the first grand-slam finalist to compete under a neutral flag, has won 10 matches in a row to start the year without dropping a set. The 24-year-old reached her first grand slam by defeating Magda Linette, in what was her first grand slam semi-final victory in three previous attempts.
Follow live scores and updates from the Australian Open women’s final, below:
Australian Open 2023: *Elena Rybakina 6-4 1-4 Aryna Sabalenka
Sabalenka was broken back immediately in the first set, and comes under pressure straight away in the second. A nervy game leads to deuce, where Sabalenka throws in a costly double fault to bring up break point.
But from there Sabalenka commits to the backhand down the line and steps in to power the winner. Rybakina hangs in, but Sabalenka powers a smash and then an ace to escape with the hold.
She is up for the battle.
Jamie Braidwood28 January 2023 09:53
Australian Open 2023: Elena Rybakina 6-4 1-3 Aryna Sabalenka* – Sabalenka breaks!
Breakthrough in the second set, in what was Sabalenka’s best return game of the match. Sabalenka steadies with good depth to the Rybakina baseline, setting up break point at 30-40. Rybakina finds the ace out wide but Sabalenka sets up another opportunity, and this time takes it as Sabalenka draws the error from Rybakina.
Jamie Braidwood28 January 2023 09:48
Australian Open 2023: *Elena Rybakina 6-4 1-2 Aryna Sabalenka
Sabalenka looked to be in a comfortable position at 40-15, but winners are followed by errors and it’s never quite smooth-sailing. Still, she is responding well enough. She fires a couple of aces in a row to stay in front in the set.
Jamie Braidwood28 January 2023 09:39
Australian Open 2023: Elena Rybakina 6-4 1-1 Aryna Sabalenka*
Rybakina plays a lovely drop shot at the net but it’s Sabalenka who asks the questions in the 23-year-old’s first service game. Sabalenka moves Rybakina with a crosscourt winner and gets to deuce with another winner off the return, but Rybakina can close it out with the serve out wide.
Jamie Braidwood28 January 2023 09:35
Australian Open 2023: *Elena Rybakina 6-4 0-1 Aryna Sabalenka
Sabalenka is faced with further pressure right from the off as the second set begins, with Rybakina arrowing the returns. It gets her to 15-40 and allows her a chance at an opening break, but Sabalenka produces the first serves to get out of trouble.
Jamie Braidwood28 January 2023 09:30
Australian Open 2023: Elena Rybakina 6-4 Aryna Sabalenka* – Rybakina wins the first set!
That is brilliant from Rybakina. She serves out the first set to love and takes a commanding position in this Australian Open women’s final. It’s the first set Sabalenka has dropped all tournament, but Rybakina is a different level when she is on this form.
Jamie Braidwood28 January 2023 09:21
Australian Open 2023: *Elena Rybakina 5-4 Aryna Sabalenka – Rybakina breaks!
The first serve deserts Sabalenka and a double faults forces her to look at 0-30, but she responds well with a forehand down the line.
But Rybakina finds her depth again from the baseline and pushes Sabalenka into netting on the backhand, as she stretched.
Two break points: Rybakina attacks the second serve, but just misses long on the forehand.
Sabalenka goes big on the second serve – but long! Another double fault and Rybakina will serve for the set next!
Jamie Braidwood28 January 2023 09:17
Australian Open 2023: Elena Rybakina 4-4 Aryna Sabalenka* – Sabalenka breaks!
Sabalenka plays two excellent backhands crosscourt and deep to the Rybakina backhand. She puts the smash away on the first point before Rybakina nets on the second.
A chance at 0-30, and Sabalenka again hurries Rybakina by taking the return early, and Rybakina fires wide.
Three break points: and Sabalenka gets back on serve on the second! Rybakina played a backhand slice from midcourt and Sabalenka produces the backhand winner down the line!
Jamie Braidwood28 January 2023 09:12
Australian Open 2023: *Elena Rybakina 4-3 Aryna Sabalenka
Sabalenka fires an ace out wide on 15-30, which was good timing after the double fault. Rybakina works herself into the rally at 30-30, but Sabalenka changes it up with the forehand down the line to force Rybakina to net.
And that’s an important hold. Sabalenka powers a backhand winner off the short return from Rybakina.
You’d still say both Rybakina and Sabalenka are playing well.
Jamie Braidwood28 January 2023 09:08
Australian Open 2023: Elena Rybakina 4-2 Aryna Sabalenka*
Rybakina is such a smooth player when in full flow. This has been an ice-cool start, as she holds to love to immediately put the pressure back on Sabalenka.
Jamie Braidwood28 January 2023 09:05