Aryna Sabalenka ascended to the ranks of Grand Slam champion on Saturday after coming from a set down to defeat Elena Rybakina 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the Australian Open final.
Sabalenka, 24, extended her winning streak to 11 straight matches, having also won Adelaide 1 to start her season. She has now won four three-setters against Rybakina in as many encounters.
Rybakina, who won her first major at Wimbledon last year, backed it up by knocking out three straight Grand Slam champions — Iga Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka — to reach a second final. The 23-year-old Rybakina will break the Top 10 as a result.
The 2-hour, 28-minute contest was too close to call for much of its duration and had social media abuzz until the end. After Sabalenka sealed her fourth match point, tributes began to pour in from the tennis world.
Fellow major champions Bianca Andreescu and Victoria Azarenka were among those congratulating Sabalenka, along with two-time Grand Slam finalist Ons Jabeur and former Indian Wells titlist Paula Badosa. Jabeur also offered a cheeky reasoning behind Sabalenka’s success.
Wow What a Final ladies 🔥🔥🔥huge congrats to @SabalenkaA You really deserve it ❤️
Hard luck Elena I am sure you will win more grand slams 🙏🙏
— Ons Jabeur (@Ons_Jabeur) January 28, 2023
Amazing final from both 🙌🏽 and so happy for Aryna!
— A (@AnisimovaAmanda) January 28, 2023
Daria Saville had live-tweeted throughout the match, and the Australian congratulated both finalists afterwards. She also noted a certain similarity between Sabalenka’s pose when holding the trophy, and when holding Saville’s sausage dog Tofu earlier in the fortnight.
Unbelievable ! So much respect to the girls!! Congrats Arina!!!!!!! calm down tiger!!!
— Daria Saville (@Daria_gav) January 28, 2023
Congratulations also came in from some of Sabalenka’s beaten opponents in Melbourne: Magda Linette, whom she defeated in the semifinals, and Donna Vekic, whom she ousted in the quarterfinals.
WTA Legend Billie Jean King had presented Sabalenka with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup and wrote that she had been “honored” to do so.
Congratulations to Aryna Sabalenka on her first Grand Slam title!
It was a thrilling match and both Sabalenka and Rybakina played so well.
Honored to present Aryna with the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup. 🏆#AusOpen pic.twitter.com/l8WCXsmcfW
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) January 28, 2023
Congratulations also came from Sabalenka’s sometime doubles partner Elise Mertens, with whom she won the 2019 US Open and 2021 Australian Open, and fellow top tenners Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula.
Trainer players and commentators including Laura Robson, Teliana Pereira and Barbara Schett-Eagle also offered praise. Robson described the match as “a joy to watch,” while Pereira wrote: “Aryna Sabalenka deserved that title so much! I loved the finale, played well and at the end I almost died — dramatic!”
Coach Judy Murray also described the final as “an amazing showcase for women’s tennis.”
Unrealmatch!!!! wow that was a joy to watch
— Laura Robson (@laurarobson5) January 28, 2023
Aryna Sabalenka deserved that title too much.
I loved the final, well played and at the very end I almost died of my heart, dramatic!
What a game!#AustralianOpenNaESPN
— Teliana Pereira (@telianapereira) January 28, 2023
Former World No.1s Kim Clijsters, Ana Ivanovic and Tracy Austin also congratulated Sabalenka. Like Sabalenka, Clijsters’ path to her first major was not simple – the Belgian lost four Grand Slam finals before breaking through at the 2005 US Open, and going on to collect four major titles. Meanwhile, 2008 Roland Garros champion Ivanovic advised the newest member of the Grand Slam champion club: “Enjoy the moment.”
She stepped it up most when she needed to. Congrats on the first one @SabalenkaA ! 🏆🇦🇺
— Kim Clijsters (@Clijsterskim) January 28, 2023
Australian ATP great Rod Laver also offered his congratulations to the finalists, writing:
“Congratulations on winning your first major, Aryna Sabalenka. You fought hard all the way with great power and passion. Bad luck tonight, Elena Rybakina, your poise under pressure is a wonderful trait. A classic contest between two classy competitors.”
Congratulations on winning your first major Aryna Sabalenka. You fought hard all the way with great power and passion. Bad luck tonight Elena Rybakina, your poise under pressure is a wonderful trait. A classic contest between two classy competitors.🚀
— Rod Laver (@rodlaver) January 28, 2023
Official tournament accounts also paid tribute to Sabalenka, including some of her previous sites of victory such as Madrid and Linz. Meanwhile, the Kazakhstan Tennis Federation showed love to Rybakina.