Aryna Sabalenka's comeback in the Australian Open final sent her into the grand slam record books. 

Sabalenka beat last year's Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 4-6 6-3 6-4 in Melbourne on Saturday.

That saw the fifth seed clinch her maiden grand slam title, and become the fifth woman in the Open Era to achieve the feat via a comeback in the final.

Sabalenka joined Nancy Richy, Jelena Ostapenko, Sofia Kenin and, ironically, Rybakina on that list.

The Belarusian hit 17 aces against Rybakina, trailing only Serena Williams (18 against Maria Sharapova in the 2015 final) for the highest amount of aces in a women's singles showpiece match at Melbourne Park.

Sabalenka has now won the title in three of the four tournaments in which she has faced Rybakina (Wuhan 2019, Abu Dhabi 2021 and the Australian Open 2023).

She is the 29th different woman in the Open Era to secure the title at the Australian Open and the 58th women's player in the Open Era to win a major.

Aryna Sabalenka says becoming world number one is the next target on her list after beating Elena Rybakina in Saturday's Australian Open final to win her first grand slam.

The 24-year-old recovered from behind at Rod Laver Arena to beat reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina 4-6 6-3 6-4 and become the 58th different women's player to win a major in the Open Era. 

Having previously fallen short in three semi-finals, Sabalenka became the fifth female player in the Open Era to win her maiden grand slam final, with Rybakina being another.

After adding her name to an exclusive list, Sabalenka is now targeting the number one spot for the first time, which is held by Iga Swiatek.

"As I've said, we all have the same kind of goals," Sabalenka, set to move up to second in the updated rankings, said at her post-match press conference. "Winning a grand slam is not the last on my list."

Sabalenka, who described her performance as "the best of my life", has now won 23 matches in a row to start the 2023 season.

 

She made 17 aces against Rybakina, whom she is now 4-0 against in head-to-head encounters, with that bettered only by Serena Williams (18 versus Maria Sharapova in 2015) in the past 20 Australian Open women's finals.

And the Belarusian – competing under a neutral flag in Melbourne – puts her breakthrough grand slam triumph down to changing her mindset and becoming calmer on court.

"I always had this weird feeling that when people would come to me and ask for signature, I would be like, 'why are you asking for signature? I'm nobody. I'm a player. I don't have a grand slam' and all this stuff," she said.

"I just changed how I feel. I started respecting myself more. I started to understand that actually I'm here because I work so hard and I'm actually good player.

"Just having this understanding that I'm a good player, understanding I can handle a lot of emotions, a lot of things on court. Every time I had a tough moment on court, I was just reminding myself that I'm good enough to handle all this."

Rybakina defeated major champions Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka en route to the final, though she was unable to add to the Wimbledon crown she won in July.

The 22nd seed took the first set – the first Sabalenka has dropped this year – but her opponent's serve soon clicked into gear and Rybakina had no response.

"She served really well today no matter the double-faults," Rybakina said. "A few second serves she hit probably as a first serve.

"For sure it's not easy mentally. She didn't have great serve last year, but now she's super strong and she served well. I respect that. I know how much work it takes.

"I think Aryna raised her level in the second set. She played really well, aggressive, made fewer mistakes. I should have been more aggressive also in some moments.

"I had some chances to turn it around. But she played really well today. She was strong mentally and physically. Overall it was a good two weeks for me here."

As Saturday's Australian Open final pitted two of the most powerful players on the WTA Tour against one another, of course Russell Crowe was in Rod Laver Arena to see these modern gladiators do battle.

Much like Crowe's Hollywood epic, this encounter took two and a half hours to reach its conclusion. When it did, it was the brute strength and bravery of Aryna Sabalenka that made her a first-time grand slam champion.

Sabalenka, having so often fallen frustratingly short on the biggest stage, stuck to the principles that had carried her this far and was rewarded with a 4-6 6-3 6-4 defeat of Elena Rybakina.

A change has been noted in Sabalenka's manner in Melbourne, a calmer approach in difficult moments – and there were plenty against Rybakina.

Sabalenka had previously spoken of the need to be "boring" to win a major, but she argued ahead of this final: "I don't think it's that boring to watch me. I hope [not]. Just less negative emotions."

Are you not entertained? Crowe and the rest of the crowd watching this back-and-forth certainly were, chiefly due to Sabalenka's unrelenting aggression.

It was most evident on the second serve as Sabalenka repeatedly went after her opponent. Perhaps she felt she had no choice.

Rybakina had won a tournament-leading 73 points against the second serve prior to the final; easing up would have invited her own immense power into the equation.

Instead, Sabalenka's second serve averaged 149km/h. The result was only a 47 per cent success rate and seven double faults – but also the title.

Rybakina went in the opposite direction and, after a strong start, paid the price.

Her second serve was down at 136km/h and led to only a single double fault, yet Sabalenka, initially understandably nervous, grew into the match and won 23 return points against the second serve. She met Rybakina's uncharacteristically delicate touch with a hammer.

Rybakina's thinking had been set forth after her first night match of the tournament against Victoria Azarenka in the semi-finals.

"Maybe I will not have to serve that big, that fast, so it doesn't really matter the speed," she explained. "It's important to have a good placement on the serve.

"In these conditions, to serve full, full power, it's not easy. The ball is not really going."

It still went at times in the final – a 195km/h serve matched any previously seen in Melbourne this year – but that placement was not there; landing only 59 per cent of her first serves in, Melbourne's ace queen allowed Sabalenka to become a little too familiar with this change of tack on second serve.

Having eliminated three major champions, including world number one Iga Swiatek, and last year's finalist en route to the showpiece match, it was undoubtedly a risk for Rybakina to alter her game with the title in sight.

She may well have thought it had paid off after taking the first set; although her three previous matches against Sabalenka had all gone to three sets, all had been lost after Rybakina dropped the opener.

But Sabalenka roared back, recovering from 15-40 in the opening game of the second and building from there.

Once the tide turned, it became increasingly unclear whether Rybakina was steadfastly sticking to her slower, supposedly more accurate method or had simply been sapped of her energy by the sublime force of Sabalenka, who racked up 51 winners.

It was ultimately the Belarusian – a first neutral champion – who succeeded in showing something different, her 11th win in succession to start the season seeing her drop a set for the first time yet still triumph.

As emotion overcame Sabalenka before she promised "even better tennis" in Australia next year, Rybakina was left with much to ponder.

Both women outlined their desire for "many more battles", and the Wimbledon champion might hope the conditions next time tee her up to take Sabalenka on at her own game.

Sabalenka is the opponent Rybakina has faced most often without winning; if this is to develop into the sort of rivalry women's tennis has not seen for some time, that is going to need to change.

Aryna Sabalenka vowed to have many more battles with the impressive Elena Rybakina after securing her first grand slam title at the Australian Open.

Belarusian Sabalenka was far from her best in the first set on Rod Laver Arena but made amends for her errant serving with a heavy-hitting showing to down Rybakina 4-6 6-3 6-4 on Saturday.

Victory over the 23-year-old marked Sabalenka's 11th straight win to start the 2023 season, dropping to her knees to celebrate after falling just short in previously reaching three major semi-finals.

World number five Sabalenka heaped praise on Rybakina, who had looked on course to back up her 2022 Wimbledon triumph, as she reflected on a maiden grand slam success.

"First of all, I want to say sorry for my English as I am still shaking and am super nervous," she said on court after her triumph.

"Secondly, it's such an inspiration to receive this trophy from you [Billie Jean King]. Thank you so much for everything you've done for our sport. I couldn't be more thankful.

"I want to congratulate Elena for an incredible two weeks. You are such a great player.

"I hope we have many more battles and hopefully [they will be] in the finals of grand slams.

"Congratulations to your team. You guys are amazing and have done such a good job.

"It was an amazing atmosphere. I hope next year I come back even stronger and I will show you all [the Australian fans] even better tennis."

Addressing her own team, Sabalenka added: "We've been through a lot of downs last year.

"We worked so hard and you guys deserve this trophy. This is more about you than about me. Thank you so much for everything you do for me. I love you guys."

 

Rybakina, the 22nd seed in Melbourne, defeated major champions Iga Swiatek, Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka en route to the final amid a scintillating run in Australia.

But she slipped to a fourth straight defeat in head-to-head clashes with Sabalenka.

"I would like to congratulate Aryna on the title and a great start to the season. I know how hard you and your team have worked for that," Rybakina said.

"Good luck for the rest of the season and hopefully we are going to have many more battles.

"I want to say a big thank you to my team for the great job we have done; to my family, coach and president of the Kazakhstan Federation, thank you so much for the support.

"I had goosebumps with this atmosphere and I am looking forward to coming back next year. Next year I hope to go one better."

Aryna Sabalenka claimed her first grand slam title after fighting back to down Elena Rybakina at the Australian Open on Saturday.

Sabalenka has won all 11 of her matches in 2023 after battling to a thrilling 4-6 6-3 6-4 victory over the Wimbledon champion.

Dropping the opener against Rybakina was the first time Sabalenka had lost a set this year.

After moving in front, Rybakina seemed on course to back up last year's major success with a hard-court victory in Melbourne, but fifth seed Sabalenka regained composure after a nervy start to win a gripping encounter.

Both players were impacted by the wind in the early stages with the roof open at the Rod Laver Arena, though Rybakina adapted the quicker to break and go 2-1 up as Sabalenka skewed a forehand wide.

Despite the Belarusian levelling at 4-4 with a powerful backhand, Sabalenka's errant serving proved costly as five double faults allowed Rybakina move ahead and serve out to take the lead.

The match sprung to life as Sabalenka's serve clicked into gear. Rybakina saved two set points but had no answer on the third as an emphatic ace ensured a decider would be required.

World number 25 Rybakina was then overpowered by Sabalenka's heavy-hitting forehand and, despite saving three break points prior, the latter snatched a vital opportunity to go 4-3 up and then move a game away from glory.

That break ultimately proved the difference but Sabalenka had to hold her nerve, with Rybakina making her serve it out.

Despite a double fault on her first championship point and then being unable to convert her next two, Sabalenka claimed the title on her fourth match point as her opponent's forehand went long, with the relief and emotion pouring out as she dropped to the ground.

Data slam: Sabalenka rewarded for grand slam consistency

Sabalenka became the 58th different female player in the Open Era to secure a grand slam title after overcoming the 57th major champion Rybakina, who lifted the Wimbledon trophy in 2022.

In the last two seasons, only Iga Swiatek (24) and Jessica Pegula (18) have won more grand slam main-draw matches than Sabalenka (17) as the 24-year-old tasted her first major success, having made it as far as the semi-finals in three previous majors.

Novak Djokovic insists his father did not intend to pose for pictures with supporters of Vladimir Putin and is hoping he will be able to attend Sunday's Australian Open final.

Srdjan Djokovic was not present at Rod Laver Arena for his son's 7-5 6-1 6-2 win over Tommy Paul on Friday, which set up a final against Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The 62-year-old announced in a statement ahead of the match that he was staying away to avoid creating any "disruption for my son or for the other player".

It comes on the back of Srdjan being pictured standing next to a Russian flag with Putin's face on it, and a man whose t-shirt indicated support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

But Novak, who is chasing a 10th grand slam title in Australia and a record-equalling 22nd men's singles major overall, believes the situation has been taken out of context.

"There was no intention," Djokovic said after beating Paul. "You're basically asking me a question like he did it intentionally, like he's not being careful about what he's doing. 

"It can happen to many people what happened to him. He was passing through, made a photo, it has escalated. He was misused in this situation by this group of people. 

"That's what happened. I can't be angry with him or upset because I can say it was not his fault. He went out to celebrate with my fans, and that's it. That's all that happened. 

"After that, of course he felt bad because of me and he knew how that's going to reflect on me, the whole media pressure and everything that's happened in the last 48 hours.

"But it is what it is. You accept it and you move on."

Elaborating on the incident, he said: "The photo that he made, he was passing through. I heard what he said in the video. He said 'cheers'. 

"Unfortunately some of the media has interpreted that in a really wrong way. I'm sorry that that has escalated so much. 

"But I hope people understand that there was absolutely no intention whatsoever to support any kind of war initiatives or anything like that.

"There was a lot of Serbian flags around. That's what he thought. He thought he was making photo with somebody from Serbia. That's it. He moved on."

Asked if he expects his father to be back in the stadium for Sunday's final, Djokovic said: "Let's see. It wasn't pleasant not to have him in the box today. 

"It's a decision that we made together. We just didn't know how things would play out, I guess.

"But yeah, I hope to have him [there for the final]. I hope he's going to be feeling okay to be in the courts because I would like to have him there for the final."

Djokovic argued with the umpire and appeared to completely lose focus as he let a 5-1 lead slip in the opening set, but he responded well en route to a straight-sets victory.

And the Serbian, who has still never lost either a semi-final or a final at the first major of the season, admitted the controversy surrounding his father impacted his performance.

"I saw, as everybody else saw, what happened yesterday," he said. "It was unfortunate that the misinterpretation of what happened yesterday has escalated to such a high level. 

"There was, I would say, a lot of conversations with tournament director, with media and everyone else. It has got to me, of course, as well. I was not aware of it until last night. 

"My father, my whole family, and myself, have been through several wars during the 90s. As my father said, we are against the war, we never will support any violence or any war. 

"We know how devastating that is for the family, for people in any country that is going through the war."

Jamaican Davis Cup Coach/Captain Mel Spence is confident that home-court advantage will be enough for his team to see off a tough challenge from Estonia in their group two qualifying fixture at the Eric Bell National Tennis Centre from February 4-5.

Estonia are currently ranked 59th in the world, ten spots ahead of the Jamaicans.

“The Estonia team is very good. On paper they have some rankings that are higher than us but that’s just on paper,” Spence said at a press conference on Thursday.

"We have the home court advantage and I think that’s going to push us through,” he added.

Spence noted that the Jamaican team comprising Blaise Bicknell, Jacob Bicknell, Daniel Azar, Randy Phillips and John Chin has been performing well for a while.

“I’m very confident in them. They’ve been playing very good tennis over the last six months to a year and they’ve gelled well. It’s basically the same team that we’ve had before. We have a tough opponent ahead of us but we’ve played tough opponents before and come out on top,” he said.

While the team can’t be together until a few days before the tie, Spence noted the amount of preparation that some members of the team are getting by competing for their universities overseas.

“Within their respective teams they’ll play matches against their other teammates but they just started the season so I’d say they play an average of two matches a week against other schools. That’s plenty of preparation for them.”

21-year-old Blaise Bicknell currently represents the University of Tennessee while Chin, 19, represents Boise State University. Bicknell is currently the highest ranked Jamaican on the ATP Tour at 764.

 

 

Novak Djokovic said even his vivid imagination could not have dreamt up playing a 10th Australian Open final 15 years after winning his first at Melbourne Park.

The Serbian great has the chance to win a record-equalling 22nd grand slam for a male player after hammering Tommy Paul 7-5 6-1 6-2 – a scoreline that would have been even more commanding had Djokovic not endured a first-set blip from 5-1 up.

Djokovic is already a nine-time singles champion in Melbourne, with his first triumph coming back in 2008, and only Stefanos Tsitsipas stands in his way of a 10th.

"I have a pretty vivid and strong imagination, but even I don't think I imagined it would turn out this way," he said during his on-court interview on Rod Laver Arena.

"Super blessed and grateful, I'm trying to cherish and marvel in every moment. Without my family, without my team these things wouldn't be possible. 

"You're by yourself, all eyes are on you, you take responsibility, you take credit, but you have to give credit where it's due and that's to the team who live with me day by day in good and bad moments. This is as much their success as it is mine."

Only one other male player has won double-digit titles at a single slam, that being Rafael Nadal at the French Open.

Tsitsipas is a player Djokovic has faced in a major final before, defeating the Greek at the 2021 French Open showpiece in a match where he had to come from sets down.

"I won that match, so my recollections are very positive!" Djokovic added to a laugh.

"I came from two sets to love down, I think it was the first time I came down from two sets down in a slam final. It was his first slam final, a really physical and emotional battle. It always is with Stefanos. 

"I respect him a lot, he's one of the most interesting guys off the court, with his interests and hairstyle. But it's all business on Sunday, let the best player win."

Both players were involved in a slog at the start of the second set and when asked about his energy levels, Djokovic joked: "It's great, it's perfect, it's 110 per cent!"

He then added: "Look, of course you're not as fresh as at the beginning of the tournament that's for sure.

"We put a lot of effort in the off season weeks on our fitness, to be in good enough condition to play best-of-five sets."

Sunday's victor will also ascend to the top of the ATP rankings, something Djokovic concedes does add extra spice.

"Of course it does, winning grand slams and being number one are the two biggest peaks you can climb as a tennis player," he said. "Let's see what happens."

Novak Djokovic will play his 33rd grand slam final on Sunday, extending his men's Open Era record and edging closer to Chris Evert's leading mark across all singles players.

Djokovic beat Tommy Paul at the Australian Open on Friday to advance to a 10th Melbourne final, having won each of the prior nine.

The Serbian has also played nine title matches at the US Open, eight at Wimbledon and six at the French Open.

Even before this latest semi-final success, his tally of 32 major men's singles finals was unmatched in the Open Era.

But the 33rd saw Djokovic match Serena Williams in second place among both male and female players, with only Evert out ahead now on 34.

Djokovic will no doubt back himself to reach and perhaps pass that record before the year is out, with Roger Federer having retired and Rafael Nadal injured again – those two great rivals no longer keeping pace with the 21-time slam champion. A 22nd success on Sunday would equal Nadal's record.

With victory over Paul, Djokovic joined Federer and Nadal as the only male players in the Open Era to reach 10 or more finals at one major.

Federer went to 12 Wimbledon finals, while Nadal has played the title match at Roland Garros on 14 occasions.

Novak Djokovic limped into his 10th Australian Open final with a record-breaking 27th consecutive win in Melbourne against Tommy Paul on Friday.

Djokovic, who has never lost either a semi-final or a final at the first major of the season, came through 7-5 6-1 6-2 to eclipse the Andre Agassi win streak he had tied with a last-eight defeat of Andrey Rublev.

Despite a similar scoreline, however, this was not quite as straightforward as that prior match – particularly in a first set the nine-time champion threatened to throw away.

Djokovic also appeared to be suffering again with the hamstring injury that hampered his preparation for the tournament, but he now needs to come through just one more match, against Stefanos Tsitsipas, to add another title.

The semi ended as it started, with Djokovic in control, yet there was a blip when he looked to be coasting through the opener.

Having just passed up his first set point, Djokovic confronted the umpire when he was not allowed time to take a towel and appeared to lose his focus, allowing Paul to win the next seven points en route to consecutive breaks – the second clinched with a stunning 30-stroke rally.

Finally, with the set level, Djokovic regained some composure and soon enough took a long-awaited second set point before cupping his ear to the Melbourne crowd and being greeted with jeers in return.

It quickly became clear Paul had missed his chance as Djokovic cruised, his primary foe now that troublesome injury.

After stretching out his leg during the first-set collapse, the Serbian appeared in discomfort throughout a dominant second, asking for ice at 5-0 up ahead of Paul's sole hold in the set.

That ailment did not prove enough to derail Djokovic, though, as the third set followed a similar theme in an ultimately commanding semi success.

Data Slam: Djokovic closing on career-best streak

Now the sole owner of the longest Open Era winning streak in the main draw of the men's singles tournament at the Australian Open, Djokovic will match his best run at any grand slam if he beats Tsitsipas, having claimed 28 straight victories at Wimbledon.

Only Roger Federer (40 at the US Open and 40 at Wimbledon) and Bjorn Borg (41 at Wimbledon and 28 at the French Open) have previously had 27-match win sequences at two different majors.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Djokovic – 12/5
Paul – 4/0

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Djokovic – 31/39
Paul – 18/32

BREAK POINTS WON

Djokovic – 7/11
Paul – 2/9

Rafael Nadal remains on course to return to action in March after undergoing further tests on the hip flexor injury he sustained on his way out of the Australian Open.

The 22-time major winner failed to defend his crown in Melbourne after losing 6-4 6-4 7-5 to world number 65 Mackenzie McDonald last week.

Nadal struggled to move around the court in the closing stages of the match and revealed afterwards he had aggravated an issue he had been suffering with for a couple of days.

An MRI scan showed the Spaniard had a grade two iliopsoas tear in his hip flexor, which would usually mean between six and eight weeks out of action.

After returning home to undergo further checks on Thursday, Nadal confirmed he is on course to return in that initial timeframe.

"Today I have been at the Tecknon Tennis Clinic in Barcelona where they have carried out some tests on me," he posted on his personal Twitter page.

"The Melbourne results are confirmed and the deadlines remain the same. I've established the treatments to follow and in three weeks they will perform new tests to see the evolution."

Nadal faces a battle getting back to full fitness in time for the Indian Wells and Miami Masters 1000 events in March.

Those were due to be preceded on his schedule by a high-profile exhibition match in Las Vegas against Carlos Alcaraz, who is also currently injured, on March 5.

Nadal was distraught to suffer yet another injury setback after severe foot and abdomen problems hit his 2022 season.

"In terms of sports and in terms of injuries and tough moments, I mean, that's another one," Nadal said last week. 

"I can't say that I am not destroyed mentally at this time, because I will be lying."

Stefanos Tsitsipas always felt he had the "ego" to be challenging for grand slams and the world number one ranking after booking his spot in the Australian Open final.

The Greek defeated Karen Khachanov 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena and will now face either nine-time Melbourne champion Novak Djokovic or Tommy Paul in Sunday's showpiece.

It marks Tsitsipas' second run to a slam final after he was beaten by Djokovic at the French Open in 2021, a match in which he surrendered a two-set lead.

Victory would not only see him win a maiden slam but take ownership of the men's world number one ranking, two ambitions Tsitsipas always believed he could achieve.

"I remember watching it on TV saying to myself, 'I want to be there one day myself. I want to recreate that feeling for me'," he said.

"I knew that's a very long journey to get there. There are certain steps you have to take to give yourself the chance to be competing for something like this.

"But I very much believed it. First of all, it's your ego that speaks. You either have it or not. As a kid, I was very confident. 

"Thank God I was good in my country. Starting from that, I knew if I'm able to get out of my country and compete in other countries, European leagues, European tours, I proved myself over and over again that I'm actually good. 

"I did finish as a junior number one. Now I want to do it in the men's side, in the men's professional tennis."

Asked what had changed since losing to Djokovic in the final at Roland Garros almost two years ago, Tsitsipas said: "I'm playing great tennis. I'm enjoying myself. I just see no downside or negativity in what I'm trying to do out there. Even if it doesn't work, I'm very optimistic and positive about any outcome, any opponent that I have to face.

"This is something that has been sort of lacking in my game. I genuinely believe in what I'm able to produce. That is more than enough. I go about this way. I strive for it every single day. It might not go the way I want it to, but I put 110 per cent out there."

Khachanov has enjoyed back-to-back slam semi-finals having also made the last four at last year's US Open.

The 26-year-old retains belief that he can beyond the semis at future slams.

"Maybe in some situations I could do better. It's always like this. Tennis is always, like any other sport, there is no draw unfortunately in our sport. One guy has to win and to go through," he said.

"I would say I did it second time in a row, consecutive semi-finals. I would definitely go with my head high. Again, rest a couple of days, think with my team for next schedule, again to have a team meeting to discuss those particular situations and moments on what we need to work.

"Hopefully I keep believing that I can pass this step next time, if I am in this situation, hopefully. That's it."

Stefanos Tsitsipas will get a chance to play for his first grand slam title after advancing past Karen Khachanov 7-6 (7-2) 6-4 6-7 (6-8) 6-3 in Friday's semi-final.

Tsitsipas was at his aggressive best, compiling a massive 66 winners to go with his 18 aces. It was his highest winner tally of the tournament so far, eclipsing his 48 in five sets against Jannik Sinner, and his 46 in three sets against Quentin Halys.

Despite his high level of play, the first set was closely contested as both players secured a pair of breaks, but Tsitsipas was able to rattle off five consecutive points in the tiebreaker to run away with the opener.

The world number four did not allow Khachanov a single break-point opportunity in a stylish second set, and it was the same story in the third until Khachanov crucially took his one break-point chance as Tsitsipas was serving for the match.

Khachanov showed guts to fight off two match points and take the third in a tiebreaker, but he was just delaying the inevitable as Tsitsipas racked up 17 winners to five and made the fourth set the shortest of the match.

Tsitsipas will face the winner between Novak Djokovic and Tommy Paul in the final, with a chance to become Greece's first grand slam champion at the age of 24.

Data Slam: Tsitsipas conquers his demons down under

It was the fourth time Tsitsipas had reached the final four of the Australian Open, but after failures in 2019, 2021 and 2022, the Greek finally got over the line against his Russian challenger.

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS

Tsitsipas – 18/5

Khachanov – 10/1

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS

Tsitsipas – 66/34

Khachanov – 46/32

BREAK POINTS WON

Tsitsipas – 5/12

Khachanov – 3/4

For the first time since 2007, Jamaica will host a Davis Cup tie when they take on Estonia in a Group 2 qualifying contest at the Eric Bell National tennis Centre from February 4-5.

“That is something we’re very proud of,” said Tennis Jamaica President John Azar at a press conference on Thursday.

“I would say that prior to 2019, the last time that Jamaica had qualified for the Group 2 qualifiers in the Davis Cup was 2009 so, in the past three years we have qualified which clearly speaks to, in my mind, hopefully we’re doing something right for the future. This event will be a first-class production,” he added.

Jamaica will be represented by Blaise Bicknell, Jacob Bicknell, Daniel Azar, Randy Phillips and John Chin and the captain/coach is Mel Spence.

“We’re confident that we have a strong team for this tie,” Azar said.

“It’s a well-balanced team of youth and experience and I’m very happy with their preparation,” he added.

The Estonian team is expected to arrive on the island next Monday while some of the Jamaican team will arrive on the island two days later due to college commitments.

While some may view this as a disadvantage, Coach Spence believes the morale of the team remains as high as ever.

“Thank God for technology. We speak to each other on a daily basis. We’re sending videos to each other of workouts that we’re doing or what our opponents may be doing. We’re keeping the vibe up so thank God for technology. We’re able to keep that bond despite being thousands of miles away from each other,” Spence said.

The matches get underway at 3:00pm Jamaica time on Saturday and 1:00pm on Sunday.

 

 

 

Aryna Sabalenka made a giant career breakthrough by reaching the Australian Open final, revealing: "I've dropped my psychologist and appointed myself."

One year on from being near the lowest ebb of her career, struggling to hit a serve into court, Sabalenka is a changed player after working on the biomechanics of her game.

Three times a losing grand slam semi-finalist, she got over that hurdle for the first time by beating Magda Linette 7-6 (7-1) 6-2 in Thursday's second semi-final, setting up a title showdown with Elena Rybakina on Saturday.

Hard work has brought about this change in Sabalenka, who was stacking up double-figure match totals of double faults as a matter of course in the early stages of last season.

There was work with a psychologist in the background, too, but Sabalenka feels that has run its course, and that nobody understands her better than herself.

It is a gamble, but it also seems to be paying off handsomely.

The 24-year-old fifth seed said: "To be honest, I decided to stop working with a psychologist. I realised that nobody other than me will help, you know?

"In the pre-season I spoke to my psychologist saying, 'Listen, I feel like I have to deal with that by myself', because every time I'm hoping that someone will fix my problem, it's not fixing my problem.

"I just have to take this responsibility and I just have to deal with that. I'm not working with a psychologist any more. I'm my psychologist."

The experiment is working just fine so far, with Sabalenka having a perfect run through her first 10 matches of the year, picking up an Adelaide International title and powering through the grand slam rounds in Melbourne.

She has yet to drop a set this season, and now a first grand slam singles title is tantalisingly close.

Wimbledon champion Rybakina stands in her way, with Sabalenka disclosing she mostly ignored the grass-court slam last year after Russian and Belarusian players were banned from competing.

"I didn't watch Wimbledon last year. I was feeling really bad about that, and I didn't watch Wimbledon at all," the Belarusian said.

"A little bit the final just because I was working out in the gym. I saw a little bit. It was great tennis."

Sabalenka, who is not known for hiding her emotions, appears to be on a sturdy keel in Australia and said she kept the celebrations low-key after beating Linette because "there is one more match to go".

She has won all three of her past matches against Rybakina, but they all came before the Kazakhstani became a major champion.

It is Rybakina who carries the experience of winning in a slam final into Sunday's trophy match, which can be seen as an advantage.

The psychologist lurking within Sabalenka has delivered impressive results so far, and the on-court focus she has demonstrated suggests the woman from Minsk is unlikely to lose any mental battle.

"To be honest, I think I'm not going to do something extra," Sabalenka said. "I think it's okay to feel a little bit nervous. It's a big tournament, a big final. If you're going to start trying to do something about that, it's going to become bigger, you know?

"I'll just leave it like that. It's okay to feel nervous. She's playing great tennis, serving well. I just have to be there and have to work for it and put her under pressure. Yeah, that's it."

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